Two-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali is reciting part of Frederick Douglass’ famous “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in a new clip from Netflix’s “Amend: The Fight For America”.
The documentary series takes a look at the history and legacy of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which established equal protection for all people under the law following the Civil War. Hosted by Will Smith, the six-part series combines traditional interviews and archival footage along with excerpts like the one featuring Ali, with performers reciting speeches and writings of the 14th Amendment’s detractors and supporters.
In Ali’s “Fourth Of July” clip, the actor begins Douglass’ 1852 speech with its cordial introduction. Then, the scene cuts to historian David Blight, who notes the opening lines were meant to put the audience at ease before Douglass delivered the true purpose of the speech. “Why am I called upon to speak here today?” the actor quotes. “What have I, or those who I represent, to do with your national independence? The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
In addition to Ali, “Amend” features Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, Pedro Pascal, Yara Shahidi, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Laverne Cox, Sterling K. Brown and more who will perform readings by Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Johnson and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Amend: The Fight For America” arrives on Netflix on Feb. 17.