The Civil War, a war fought during the 1860s, decided a great many things: slavery or freedom, south and north or unification. In the beginning of the war, the Northern African Americans were not allowed to join the Union Army and fight against the Southern oppressors. Alfred M. Green, while giving a speech in Philadelphia at the beginning of the war, urged African American to prepare to enlist. He also spoke subversively about the unfairness of the treatment of African Americans not only in the South but also in the North. Green uses a variety of methods to persuade his fellow African-Americans to prepare for war while also speaking out against the treatment of the African-Am. in the North.
Green begins his speech by immediately mentioning the cornerstone of the American ideology, that American citizens believe in “freedom, and of civil and religious toleration.” By remind the African Americans what America is founded on, he incites in them the desire to go to war against anyone opposing the idea. Green, by the same token, reminds the whites of their unfairness in denying the African Americans their rights. The mention of the “immortal Washington” and “Jackson” also appeals to the patriotism in the African Americans, moving them closer to desiring to fight in the war.
The appeal Green makes to the religious beliefs of the African Americans is apparent throughout his speech. Because most of the African Americans at the time were Christian, by referring to their God as the “God of truth, Justice and equality to all men” makes the AFri. Am. feel obligated to help the cause of the Civil War. Because their God believed in “freedom,” why and how can they deny anyone else that right? At the same time Green also reminds the whites that their same God is the white God and that the African Americans deserve rights as well. Green also wants the African Americans to be “trusting in God” because their God wants them to go to war and will protect them. Why should the African Americans not go to war under such protection?
By the end of his speech, Green begins to remind the African Americans of their “oppressed brethren” in the South. He reminds them of people under a “tyrant system” and requests their assistance in overthrowing it. He also mentions the desire of the Southern leaders to “drive back…civil and religious freedom… and have more slave territory.” By mentioning the goals of the other side, he motivates the African Americans to battle by showing them the future of the nation if the South wins because they did not fight. Green notes that their “very presence” on the battlefield will urge the slaves in the South to revolt.
Green’s word choice throughout his speech helps him to motivate the African Americans to battle without their realizing it. He constantly uses the phrase “let us” to persuade the African Americans to join the army without directly telling them to do so. A direct order is much less likely to be followed than a softer direction such as “let us.” He also includes himself in the group by using the word “us,” making him seem motivated and desirous of joining the army as well. If he desires to join, why should they not? Green also anticipates certain rebuttals to his argument, but he silences them by beginning his arguments with “it is true.” He wants the African American people to know that he too realizes the problems with the government but his is still willing to go to war.
Although Green does make certain condescending arguments towards the white audience by the end of the speech he has “united” both American Americans and whites by focusing them against a common enemy: the South. He does want change, but he knows that defeating the Southern slavery system is much more pressing and important in the long run. Green is careful to “hope of the future” but still “improve the present,” and he hopes not only the African Americans but also the whites will do the same.
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