Frederick Douglass

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On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, an African-American ex-slave and abolitionist, delivered a speech in Rochester, New York at the city’s annual Fourth of July Celebration, to the citizens of Rochester. Allowing the people of Rochester only a day to immerse in the “patriotic” festivities of the Fourth of July, Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” challenges American ideals such as liberty, equality and justice, by providing arguments that examine the religious, moral and constitutional principles that the American people claim to abide by and glorify. Through rhetorical strategies such as repetition, pathos and logos, Douglass exposes the paradoxical nature of the Fourth of July.
To begin, Frederick Douglass uses repetition to put emphasis on his ideas. In the beginning of the speech, Douglass repeats the word “your” to communicate to the audience that African-Americans do not have national independence and political freedom, and therefore are unable to celebrate the 4th of July. The repetition of “your” places his ideas onto the audience by connecting his perspective of the holiday with their experience, while depersonalizing the 4th of July from the African-American society. For instance, Douglass states, “It is the birthday of your [emphasis mine] National Independence, and of your [emphasis mine] political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your [emphasis mine] minds back to the day, and to the act of your [emphasis mine] great deliverance...” By dissociating the independence of the nation with himself, Douglass connotes the meaningless of the 4th of July to the African-American people, in order to make known to the audience that African-Americans are un...

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...e to the audience that the Bible adheres to the deserved emancipation and support of African-Americans, rather than enslavement and oppression. For example, Douglass preaches, “ A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as ‘scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.” By using Matthew 23:23 to assert American Christians as righteously indignant, Douglass infers that if the White American people are truly Christian, they will obey the doctrines of The Bible and negate their duplicity by showing love and mercy to black people.

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