Frederick Douglas's What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July

1063 Words5 Pages

Frederick Douglass’s speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”, discusses the irony of celebrating the freedom that slaves cannot enjoy. He delivered the speech in 1853, about a decade before the Emancipation Proclamation, to an anti-slavery society. He criticizes America and its privileged citizens for its selective freedom, where only a few people inherit the riches of the past, and how American slaves are not granted the same independence as their white counterparts. Celebration of this day, to Douglass, is “America [being] false to the past, false to the present, and… false to the future” (74). Seeing how people are content with the achievements of the past and allowing them to define the future while ignoring the injustice of his time, Douglass felt the need to cast off this attitude and express exactly how he views slavery. As a former slave who had to purchase his own freedom, he condemns America for its inactivity and wants to create change. In order to deliver his speech with the …show more content…

He connects with the audience by establishing an agreement. He expresses gratitude by acknowledging that he has “privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall” (70). His humble introduction sets a peaceful tone for his speech. This offsets the potential for a defensive attitude within the audience. In appearing agreeable and humble, the audience relaxes. Douglass introduces religious diction by comparing Independence Day to the Passover (70). Both of which are days celebrating a day of triumph against tyrannical rule. While it initially seems that Douglass is praising America for its triumph, it sets up a greater argument within the final moments of the speech. Incorporating religion invites a higher authority for Douglass to align with. In a sense, Douglass points to God as a call to justice. This shifts the responsibility for his beliefs from himself and onto divine

Open Document