Comparing Frederick Douglass and Charles Langston

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Comparing Frederick Douglass and Charles Langston

Throughout America’s history, many influential and historical figures have given significant speeches to impact views of the people. For example, Frederick Douglass and Charles Langston are powerful speakers who try to convince the white community that slavery should be abolished. Of the two distinctive speakers, Douglass is more persuasive and outspoken than Langston. As a former slave, Douglass uses his tragic experiences to bring life and passion into his words. While Langston addresses his audience in a mild manner, Douglass seems to be more adamant and strong in his beliefs and views. Even though they approach their audiences differently, both touch upon a few similar topics. Both speakers discuss: law, religion, and common humanity to support and strengthen their speeches.

Douglass and Langston point out that the laws of the U.S. are unfair and do not serve justice. Though both men bring up similar ideas, Douglass is the one who exudes his strong feelings of fury and discontent. He argues that black men are punished more severely for the same crimes that white men commit. Douglass says, “Slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment.” (217). He also brings up the fact that the law says black men are not allowed to be educated. “It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, unde...

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...angston states that all free men were, “ trembling alike for their safety, because they well knew their fate, should those men-hunters get their hands on them.” (233).

Langston and Douglass are both zealous in their efforts to help abolish slavery. However, Douglass seems to word his disturbing thoughts and feelings in a better format.

He brings the audience into the captivity and horrors of slavery. Being of a more passive nature, Langston does not get his point across to the same degree. Douglass’ rhetorical strategy is obvious more persuasive and effective than that of Langston’s.


Douglass, Fredrick. “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” Negotiating Difference,

Bedford Books: New York. 1996. pg.208-230

Langston, Charles. “Address to the Court.” Negotiating Difference, Bedford Books:

New York. 1996. pg.232-238.
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