Frederick Douglass Essay

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The Fourth of July For the Negro Analysis

When the African-American man Frederick Douglass wrote his famous speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”, America was in a time of great distress. It was the year 1852, and the view of abolitionists was quickly spreading. It was the time of both provocative literatures such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as well as important resolutions, such as the Dredd Scott decision, showing the contrast between views at the time, both positive and negative towards slavery. Frederick Douglass was a freed African-American who bought his way out of slavery, serving as an inspiration to other slaves. His speech, being an immensely mocking jeremiad, bitterly laments the state of the American society and its morals in a serious tone of not only shameful, but even caustic, as a jeremiad should. His use of literary techniques such as antithetical parallel structure and a constant layering effect due to repetition constructs the persuasive effect that makes his shameful tone effective towards his audience.

Douglass’ speech relies heavily on the effect that shocking the audience would have. He did not follow what would be expected from him, which would have been an average speech about patriotism. His use of antithetical parallel structure, such as the lines “your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless;… your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy,” is so far from what would be expected from him that there would be no possible way to misinterpret his intentions to shame the American people. His antithetical phrases contrast what the nation wishes to see against what is seen by others such as the enslaved. He makes this even more...
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