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In addressing the meaning of Independence Day to African American slaves, Frederick Douglass composed a response which offers a brilliant mix of vitriolic condemnation and keen, documented evidence. The target of Douglass’ impassioned eloquence is American hypocrisy and social injustice; the object of the speech and pamphlet is to challenge what Douglass regards as instutionalized and socially endemic racism, which he also regards as a spiritual crime: “To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.
Douglass intends to implicate all white Americans for the crime of slavery. He remarks that Americans fought the British for their Independence and celebrate this while still holding another race as slave. He makes no exception for political party, for individual opinion, but insists that all Americans are guilty of a terrible and spiritually consequent since against humanity.
For Douglass, the Fourth of July represented, specifically, the domination of the African American slave by white slaveholders.
“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; your national greatness, swelling vanity” (Douglass).
Frederick Douglass’ well-reasoned and well documented discourse of America’s holiday fo independence rings copiously with truth and intellectual bravery. I feel that the theories and ideas documented in his remarks are well-evidenced by history and that “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? ” stands as a profound and historically rich document which chronicles one of the most biiter and regretful times in American history.
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