Corinthian Hall once served not only as Rochester’s premier lecture hall but also as a site of forward thinking and discourse. Corinthian hall was built in 1849 by Henry Searle and has hosted speakers such as Susan B. Anthony and William Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Horace Greeley, until it eventually burned down in 1898.
In the present day there is currently a parking garage built over the site that was once the Corinthian Hall.
One of its first speeches of note was preformed by Fredrick Douglass on July 5, 1852. The oration is now referred to as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” During his oration, Douglass took up the argument that the Fourth of July being celebrated as Independence Day was hallow. His point being that the persistence of slavery in the US contradicted the spirit of the holiday, as one of freedom. During the speech Douglass also talked about the transition of how people felt about the beginnings of the Revolutionary War:
“To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can
say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave… It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when, to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men's souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! Here lies the merit…” 1
This is a sentiment that can be transitioned easily to any pre-cultural shift, considering opinions on slavery now as well as several other topics.
Corinthian Hall also served as a the venue for other notable events such as an anti-slavery convention in 1857, a “meeting of morning and eulogy” on the day of John Brown’s execution in 1859, and the first annual convention of the National Liberal League in 1877, along with many other events during its lifespan.
This entry is part of a public history project developed by the RIT Museum Studies program in celebration of the bicentennial of Frederick Douglass’s birth (February 1818). This oration is part of the Fourth of July orations collection. See https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005995156