Through this education, Douglass witnessed and later identified the hypocrisy that came from a country that fought the British for independence, yet was unwilling to extend that right to his own people as well as the hypocrisy that existed in Christianity in which the religion was used by slave owners, to justify the continuation of the institution. In this book, Douglass touches on a number of important subjects. This includes but is not confined to, Douglass’ view on friendship, power of the mind and body as well as what exactly it means to be a man as well as an individual of African descent.
Can the two coexist with each other? And if so, what measures must a man go in order to secure these rights? Douglass would spend his lifetime answering that question for himself as well as for every Africana American who had been adversely affected by the crippling racism that was so much a part of America’s past. Frederick Douglass’s 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July” is further proof that African Americans at that time, were not docile and meek. Douglass spoke in ways that had deprived the African American slave since 1624.
In this speech, there lie two distinct and separate halves. The first half, Douglass speaks in glowing terms about America’s forefathers as fearless patriots. However, one of the words that continues to be used when describing the holiday and then men and women of the Revolution who helped to shape it, was the second person possessive: “you” and “yours. ” “Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity.
” Douglass is setting up the audience and the reader for the real heart of his speech and to help show the sheer irony in asking a former slave, at a time when nearly four million African Americans were still enslaved, to speak on the 4th of July. After ending with his pleasantries and speaking in positive terms about the founding fathers as they relate to White America, Douglass sharply changes his diction and leads a verbal assault on the irony of not only America, but of Christianity, a faith that Douglass holds close to his heart.
Douglass, after giving a history lesson to his audience; a lesson that had been glorified to nearly spiritual heights by that time, Douglass changes his tone and then speaks to a passion that is also close to his heart: American slavery. I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery- the great sin and shame of America.
” Douglass is speaking to the irony of both America and those who “Christians of the land” who Douglass refers to as believers who either own slaves or who support the institution of slavery and asks for his audience to witness the irony as well. Douglass, throughout the rest of his speech, attacks slavery and the fact that he is even asked to speak on such an occasion as the 4th of July as there is no other national holiday at that time that would be more ironic for Douglass to speak upon. “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?
I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty; an unholy license…” Throughout the rest of the speech, Douglass speaks to the irony at speaking on the 4th of July, of the hypocrisy that exists in both America and the church whose aspects supports slavery and points to England who in the 1830’s had already abolished slavery. In Douglass’s 1855 book My Bondage My Freedom, he speaks about his life and the various factions that he aligned himself.
Even though there were aspects of the Christian church that supported and defended slavery, the abolitionist movement in the immediate decades before the start of the Civil War, was almost entirely a Christian movement. This writing of Douglass speaks at length about his relations with abolitionists; both important to American history and those whose efforts that went unnoticed by the historians but to Douglass, served as a chief motivator for himself to become an abolitionist. Douglass first heard the word abolitionist while under the possession of Mr.
Auld, his master. “Every little while, I could hear Master Hugh, or some other of his company, speaking with much warmth and excitement about “abolitionists. ” Of who or what these were, I was totally ignorant. I found, however, that whatever they might be, they were most cordially hated and soundly abused by slaveholders. ” Douglass, as it is seen in every book within his biography, that he was not a timid man and that the pursuit of freedom through the collection of action, spurned on my action, was his life goal.
It would only be a matter of time before Douglass would become closely aligned with the abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglass was able to first make a name for himself by his aligned with the most famous abolitionist of his day: William Lloyd Garrison; the editor of The Liberator. Douglass commented about this friendship, which although possessing its share of internal conflict, was one of the most advantageous for Douglass as well as for Garrison. “Mr.
Garrison followed me, talking me at his text; and now, whether I had made an eloquent speech in behalf of freedom or not, his was one never to be forgotten by those who heard it. ” From this, Douglass was able to write an account of him and of the experiences that he had taken part in. This is the most important aspect of the life and times of Douglass. Had he not written down his experiences, he never would have been able to gain a foothold into the public arena concerning this most important issue. It is through the words and writings of Douglass that he is still remembered today.
This would not have been possible, had Douglass never been able to align himself with the various connections that were offered to him through his association with the abolitionist movement. “In a little less than four years, therefore, after becoming a public lecturer, I was introduced to write out the leading facts connected with my experience in slavery, giving names of persons, places, and dates- thus putting it in the power of any who doubted, to ascertain the truth of falsehood of my story of being a fugitive slave.
” Even though it is a fact that many people, even some within the abolitionist movement, did not believe Douglass’ account of his life in slavery, Douglass’ first book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, printed in 1845, was so popular, five additional printings followed in the next calendar year. His experience, coupled with the way in which he was able to speak and write about his experiences, made for a very effective combination. If any of the above mentioned were missing, the name of Frederick Douglass would not be remembered today.
It is through the life experiences as skill that such a good man, was made great, both by time and circumstance. In both of the abovementioned works, Douglass speaks unapologetically, about the immoral, unfair and unconstitutional aspects of slavery in America. England has freed its slaves and America even officially abolished the slave trade, out of the belief that there is something which speaks against the liberty of people, an issue which all Americans have come to believe to be sacred. Why then are such rights not extended to the slave? The abolitionist movement was unrelenting in its appeal to free the slaves.
There is debate concerning exactly what other rights even the most outspoken white abolitionists, were willing to extend to the slave. What is not in doubt, is that the when famous and connected abolitionists, blended their abilities with the abilities and unflinching convictions of Douglass, contemporary audiences, as well as those who would follow, are left with one of the most important American orators and authors because Douglass, unlike other famous fiction writers, spoke about what was true and all too apparent in American society; American slavery which sprouted forth from the soil of racism, prejudice and ignorance.
Douglass sought to kill that weed and perhaps second only to Martin Luther King Jr. can the husbandry of a single person, be given the credit of putting to an end, those weeds which would serve as impediments to the flowering opportunity that America gives to its citizens.