On July 4, 1852, Frederick Douglas delivered his “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? ” speech. At the time this speech was delivered, Douglas was merely an escaped slave who had been taught to read and write by his slave owner’s wife. He used his gift of literacy to fight for the God-given rights of both African-Americans and women. In “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July,” Douglas cunningly uses bold diction and formatting in order to emphasize to his mostly white audience points of conviction concerning slaves.
Douglas starts by asking a sequence of rhetorical questions. In order to stress the separation between slaves and those who have their freedom, he refers to “that” Declaration of Independence, instead of “the” Declaration of Independence. He regularly uses the terms “you” and “me”, “us” and “them”, to emphasize the fact that this holiday is important to white Americans, but a mockery to African-Americans. Since the Fourth of July represents the white man’s freedom from England, why should blacks celebrate with them when they share no part of that oppression relief.
To slaves, this holiday is a double standard that makes the blind rejoice for what is not theirs to celebrate, and pushes the oppressed further into darkness. Douglas continues convicting by addressing the wrongs committed by America. He goes into detail about why African Americans have the same natural right to freedom as any other human beings. He proposes to argue about the slave being a man: that man be entitled to liberty, it is wrong to make men “brutes”, and finally, that slavery is not godly. However, he conveys that his argument is too simplistic.
May 2, 2002 Resistance to Slavery and Race Oppression Slavery in the early eighteenth century was horrible for African Americans. Men were being killed, women were being raped and children were being sold. To avoid the unjust treatment of slavery, slaves did the unthinkable. Some ran away, others killed their masters, and women even killed their own children. What were they trying to accomplish by ...
This should not even have to be argued because it all ties back to his point about the Fourth of July. Freedom is supposedly that natural right of all men. So, if a man is a man than freedom is what he is born to have. Douglas continues by bringing another double standard into the light. The American government will acknowledge a slave as a man when he needs to be punished, but not when he wants the freedom he is entitled to. A slave must be a man if he is seen as “moral, intellectual, and responsible” enough to avoid committing any of the seventy-two crimes punishable by death.
All throughout his speech, it is evident that Douglas relies on simple logic and common sense to prove his points. For example, Douglas points out that if he were to ask any man if slavery was wrong, they would say yes. In addition to this, if he were to ask a man if they wanted to be a slave, they would say no. Additionally, Douglas uses God and the Bible as part of his argument. By doing this, Douglas adds highly credited references that will make any opponent’s counterargument seem unnatural, or from the devil.
This tactic also allows him to reverse the white man’s manipulation of the Bible that states slavery is God ordained. He turns the tables by then attacking the church for not doing more to put an end to slavery. He recognizes the vast amount of influence that the church plays on society, for both black and white cultures. The church would make more headway than anything else, in terms of slaves gaining their rights, if only it would properly condemn slavery and preach against its evil.
Although he used his speech to inform his audience of the injustices happening to his people and to convict the un-convicted, it was used primarily as a call to action. Douglas emphasizes his call to action when he says, “For it is not light that is needed but fire. ” The light represents the obvious arguments for the freedom of all men. The fire, however, represents what is absent and urgently needed – awakening America to the fact that it is committing crimes against humanity, and the importance of changing it.
A slave is a tool, a total servant, a possession. Being a possession, a slave is required to total obedience to a master who has the power to do anything to a slave. Freedom means, to carry out one own choices, actions without coercion or constraint by necessity or circumstances. Fate often take a hand in the distillation of freedom. When this distillation occurs at weaker levels, benevolent ...