Slavery has been one of the most controversial issues that the United States of America experienced during its history. However, the consequences of slavery especially for the African American race still persist today. They have to undergo different kinds of unjust treatment like discrimination, stereotyping, and prejudices. These injustices are clearly highlighted and given due attention by Frederick Douglas in his speech entitled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
Frederick Douglas was able to express the grievances of his fellow African American regarding slavery as well as the other principles that the Americans’ value during their commemoration of the Fourth of July in his speech. He was able to criticize the American ideals without personally or directly attacking the other race or his listeners by basing his arguments on the humanity of every individual. Douglas expressed the injustices that this race is experiencing by justifying it in terms of their characteristics as human beings. In doing so, he was able to justify his point of view that African Americans should be treated equally like any other race. They should not be subjected to inhumane treatments because of the very fact that they are humans, which is why their rights should also be uphold. By using this kind of argument, he was able to explain the issue by using the frame of reference that everybody could relate to.
Douglass also justified his disagreement with the ideals of the founders of independence by applying it to the real situation that America experienced and is still facing. He used a very effective strategy of irony wherein he showed the hypocrisy of the American society. He was able to articulate how the values that everybody commemorate during the Fourth of July just stay as mere ideals because it is not practiced in reality. Nevertheless, he was able to make this criticism in such a way that the fault is attributed to the very nation’s shortcomings rather than the mistake of a particular group of people. Douglass did not exclude nor discriminate anyone that is clearly seen when he used the line “Fellow Citizens!” By using this line, he was able to send the message that the problems of slavery as well as the irony of American values are something that the whole nation should work on because it is embedded in their system. It is something that asks for the cooperation and action of every human being and not by a particular race or group of people.
Douglass, Frederick. 5 July 1982. “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”