Frederick Douglass Speech Rhetorical Analysis

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Long before (and after) Americans advocated for the importance of freedom, they were dependent on the labor of freedomless individuals (41). The southern states were notorious for holding the majority of slaves, while the North had become generally slave-free by the time Frederick Douglass gave the speech we will be analyzing on July 4th, 1852. This disparity between the two regions made it possible for enslaved individuals to flee to the North in hopes of becoming a free man. Fredrick Douglass was one of those lucky individuals. He broke free from the shackles of slavery upon arriving in the North after leaving Maryland. This perspective made his preachings for the immediate end of slavery impactful, and allowed him to become an essential …show more content…

In his speech, he denounced the “hypocrisy” of celebrating a day of freedom while many enslaved individuals still exist in the United States (353). As he describes the horrors he’s witnessed in the trafficking of fellow slaves, he uses emotional language that pulls at the audience’s heart-strings. His diction consisted of strong words such as “piteous,” “doleful,” and “flesh-mongers,” all of which have strong negative connotations (354). This was a reflection of the popular Romanticism movement at the time which shifted the focus to feelings rather than thoughts. By focusing on the apparent negatives of slavery in such an emotional way, he’s putting the audience in his shoes and letting them be spectators. As someone who has witnessed the atrocities of slavery, Douglass is able to paint a picture for his audience consisting of northerners who had most likely never even been to the South. For these people who don’t own slaves themselves, he serves as a window into this world of slavery in southern states. This is further shown by Douglass repeatedly using phrases such as “I see” and “I hear” (354). These clauses demonstrate the spectatorship of the audience’s perspective, since the majority of the movement consisted of Northerners. Without the emphasis on Douglass’ own experience throughout the speech, it would be increasingly difficult to know that he was a witness to slavery and his audience was not. This highlights the contrast between the majority of people fighting for this movement, and those they are fighting for. Many of the supporters had never seen slavery themselves, but former inhabitants of the South such as Douglass and the Grimke Sisters allowed them to ‘spectate' what was happening in that region of the country. This credibility combined with Douglass’ impactful diction allows the audience to see how awful

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