Rhetorical Analysis Frederick Douglass

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On July 4, 1852, Frederick Douglass was invited to present an oratory in New York in commemoration of Independence Day. While many people recall Douglass as fierce abolitionist, he was also a brilliant speaker renowned in his time. In his acclaimed speech, I Hear the Mournful Wail of Millions, he expresses the mockery he, an African American, feels of being invited to speak about independence when the black man isn’t free. America is hypocritical, he argues, because its promise of freedom and autonomy is antithetical to its practice of slavery. Through Douglass’s compelling rhetoric piece, he crafts a masterful argument using the occasion, an appeal to emotions, verbal irony and possessive pronouns to emphasize the deception of society’s oath …show more content…

Verbal irony is when a speaker says something contradictory to what is meant. Douglass repeats the words “Fellow citizens” (par. 1, 5) when addressing the audience. By using this phrase, Douglass sets the distinction between the two racial groups. The white population perches at the top of the social ladder and the dark-skinned community is burrowed beneath the ground. The perpetuating concept that a black man is not a citizen, but merely property, exposes the disparity in equality between ethnicities. Continuing with his sarcasm, Douglass asks his audience if his purpose at the ceremony is to “express devout gratitude” (par. 1) to them. The paradox is that there is no reason for him, or those he symbolizes, to applaud Americans for the Fourth of July. The writers of the Declaration created the document to benefit white men. The members of his audience, a group of white individuals, are all considered residents of American soil, meaning they are endowed with the privileges of being a United States citizen—but the African American is not. Even Douglass, who many recognize as a free man, having escaped slavery, is still confined to social restrictions because he is black and therefore, he is not truly free nor equal to a white …show more content…

He regards Independence Day as “your boasted liberty” (par. 12) because the holiday does not embrace dark-skinned people. While the Declaration of Independence does not precisely exclude a black person within its writings, society does. There is no liberty for all, only hypocrisy and false promises that favors the dominant group of white men. Expanding on the distinct relationship and status between the two ethnic groups, Douglass writes, “your celebration is a sham” (par. 12). Douglass does not soften his sentiments, his sentiments that are shared among the enslaved. He makes known there is a perceivable imbalance of the two races, an imbalance that the white man does not acknowledge, that the white population does not want to discern. It is an inescapable truth. The nationalistic principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are built upon

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