The Confounding Ambiguity Concerning the Status of the “American” Slave

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The nationality of the antebellum slave is difficult to define. The original slaves were of African descent, and so, one could argue that the great continent of Africa is the source of their nationality. However, even if this were the case, this provision only encompasses the first generation of Africans bound by American slavery. Well, what about the slaves that were born in America? If one were to consider the principle definition of nationality: “the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization,” then the slaves born in America would be American, but are they (Nationality)? Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” oration sheds light on this ambiguous subject. Throughout Douglass’ address, he concentrates on the erroneous ideals of the American people, and struggles to prove the worth of the slaves. Considering Douglass’ dogged determination to authenticate the value of these slaves, as well as the overall temperament of the speech, I surmise that the slaves of America were devoid of nationality. Douglass’ speech, while riddled with rhetoric and effluent irony, generates a remarkably effective montage demonstrating the ills of a severely oppressed race. Amongst the plethora of goading ridicule, Douglass’ appears to concentrate on the bitter irony concerning America’s independence and their decision to uphold slavery, as well as the extreme prejudice and mistreatment of slaves, and the hypocrisy of a nation that allegedly values Christianity and the freedoms conveyed in the Declaration of Independence. Douglass extends his speech to emphasize the unusual paradox regarding slavery in the land of the free. Douglass refutes the Fourth of July celebration when he states: ... ... middle of paper ... ...ary Approaches to Cultural Diversity 12.1 (2010): 4-15. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 8 Apr. 2011. Ernest, John. "Liberation Historiography: African-American Historians before the Civil War." American Literary History 14.3 (2002): 413-443. Humanities International Complete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Apr. 2011. Haymes, Stephen Nathan. "'Us Ain't Hogs, Us Is Human Flesh': Slave Pedagogy and the Problem of Ontology in African American Slave Culture." Educational Studies 32.2 (2001): 129-157. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 8 Apr. 2011. Mintz, Steven. "Frederick Douglass Reflects on the Status of African Americans." OAH Magazine of History 22.2 (2008): 49-52. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 Apr. 2011. "Nationality." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 20 Apr. 2011. .

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