Rhetorical Analysis Of Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass, born a slave and later the most influential African American leader of the 1800s, addresses the hypocrisy of the US of maintaining slavery with its upheld ideals being freedom and independence on July 4th, 1852. Douglass builds his argument by using surprising contrasts, plain facts, and provocative antithesis. Introducing his subject, Douglass reminds his audience about the dark side of America for slaves, in sharp, surprising contrasts with the apparent progressivity within the nation. He first notices “the disparity,” that “the sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and deaths to me,” as an African-American former slave. It is surprising for the audience to hear that the Sun does not bring him any prosperity, that the Sun, the source of life on earth, brings him destruction. However, it is that paradox which shocks the listeners, who may have…show more content…
He questions his audience of the significance of Independence Day to slaves, and he answers it in an extremely contrasting way: “your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; … your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery,” that the celebration is “a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.” Douglass dismisses the national pride, characterizing it as a mere expression of people’s ignorance. The antithesis, with “greatness” being “vanity,” “sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless,” and “shouts of liberty and equality” being “hollow mockery,” provokes shock and anger from the audience, who have just been part of it and are now degraded as “savages.” However, Douglass was not trying to be inflammatory but provocative, witnessing the pathetic enthusiasm in the anniversary, that people feel exuberant about themselves while ignoring the saddening

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