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Significance of Frederick Douglasss What to the Slave is the Fourth of July' - Essay Example

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The speech titled ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ by Frederick Douglass is said to be one of the most powerful works. The speech contained some really strong facts that require so much commitment and confidence to disclose in front of a crowd of people to whom those facts belong…
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Significance of Frederick Douglasss What to the Slave is the Fourth of July
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Significance of Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”? The speech d ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ by Frederick Douglass is said to be one of the most powerful works. The speech contained some really strong facts that require so much commitment and confidence to disclose in front of a crowd of people to whom those facts belong. The speech was delivered using concrete sentences which communicated the essence of the speech to the audience in just as much intensity as it was required. The speech was delivered in such a manner that it made a number of people realize the importance of human rights and equality. Frederick Douglass was born a slave but he escaped to New York where he learned to read and write. He became an activist for the rights of blacks and equality in the society. He became a leader of the abolitionist movement and he was famous for his intensive oratory. He was also known for his insightful antislavery writing. People who encouraged slavery always tried to justify their position by presenting the argument that slaves were not capable of making intellectual decisions therefore they would not be able to live as independent American citizens. Douglass proved all such arguments wrong because he himself was a slave once and he turned out to be one of the most powerful personalities in the world (Gatewood, 1981). Douglass’s speech ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ is considered to be his most powerful work with regard to his activism and this speech shows the commitment of Douglass towards individual rights of blacks. The intensity of this speech is bound to work as an eye opener for anyone. The speech is a direct communication to the people who consider themselves so educated and civilized but they do not realize the importance of humanity and they compel individuals into slavery. This speech was delivered in 1852 when slavery was still at its peak in America. Blacks were treated very badly and they were not at all given any rights which are deserved by humans. The laws and regulations were completely biased and they did not take the rights of the blacks into account and they were merely regarded as slaves. There were a number of laws that gave the legitimate authority to the owners of slaves to punish them by whipping and branding them. Such inhumane acts were permitted by the law and the citizens were encouraged to implement such acts. For example, a statute regarding punishment was passed in 1827 which empowered the slave owners to punish the slaves by whipping and branding if they physically harm another slave. Instead of taking the matter into the court of law, the owners of the slaves were given the authority to punish the slaves for their mistakes. Such laws and regulations were abused by the owners of slaves and they were treated inhumanely by the owners. Another prominent example of snatching the basic rights from the enslaved or free blacks was that of passing of a statute in the year 1832 according to which any person who would teach any enslaved or free black to read, write or spell would be charged with a fine of $250 to $500. In order to ensure that the enslaved or free blacks do not try to teach themselves, the statute provided that more than five black enslaved males would not gather at any place off the plantation to which they belong (SlaveryInAmerica.org). There are a number of other instances that are evident of the fact that the blacks were treated so badly it could easily be regarded as inhumane. Therefore, it can be said that the time at which this speech was delivered was perfect for a speech of this level of intensity. Douglass presented this speech to make the people realize that blacks are just as human as others are and they deserve all the rights and privileges that are given to the whites. The speech was delivered at a celebration for the Independence Day and the presentation of the bitter realities at this occasion yielded even more results. Douglass described that the fourth of July holds no meaning to the enslaved and the blacks. In his words, “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” The day on which the people of America celebrate the independence is the day of mourning for those enslaved. Douglass presented the example of independence of the American colonies from the British rule and how they fought against oppression. In his words, “Oppression makes a wise man mad.” Thus, according to him, the oppression on the blacks drove those men who once fought for freedom into such madness that they did not realize the atrocity of the acts they themselves had been doing. The implications of the speech by Douglass were significant as it made a number of people realize the importance of humanity. For the enslaved, the speech worked as a motivation to be free. Thus, ultimately it can be said that this speech by Frederick Douglass holds an important position in the series of events that led to the complete elimination of slavery from America. Works Cited Douglass, Frederick. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? Teaching American History. 5 July. 1852. 9 November 2011. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=162 Gatewood, Willard B. “Frederick Douglass and the Building of a ‘Wall of Anti-Slavery Fire’. The Florida Historical Quarterly, January 1981: pp. 340-344. Print. SlaveryInAmerica.org. Alabama Slavery Law Summary and Record. Slavery in America. 2011. 9 November 2011. http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/geography/slave_laws_AL.htm Read More
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