Successful, self-educated abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington fought tirelessly to eradicate slavery. Born into slavery, Douglass and Washington shared the belief of equality, but differed on the manner in which it would be achieved. Douglass’s philosophy was “agitate!, agitate!, agitate!” whereas, Washington was of the ‘work!, work!, work!” mindset.
Through his crafty use of rhetoric, Douglass delivered a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of America in his self-referential speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.” The speech articulated his passionate pursuit for liberty and equal rights. Douglass’s speech passionately argued that in the eyes of the slave and even the “free” black man the fourth of July was a travesty of the worst kind. “Fellow-citizens…what have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?” (Douglass) As an ex-slave Douglass embodied the antithesis of the occasion and sought to provoke a type of emotional response from the audience, which was comprised mostly of white abolitionists. Douglass identified with the forefather’s struggles fighting an unjust government, which so closely paralleled the African American struggle for freedom. He utilized rhetorical strategy to remind his audience of what they were celebrating and how it resembled the African Americans pursuit for emancipation. He explained that the pietism aimed at the African American population was evident on several fronts, and referred to the fourth of July as “the birthday of your National Independence and your political freedom” (Douglass) and used “that” instead of “the” Declaration of Independence. Douglass’s word choice conveyed powerful emotions and signified the separation that existed between the he and the audience members. His frequent use of “you” and “me”, “us” and “them” further illustrated the separation. “Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.” (Douglass)...
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