Literary Analysis of the Speech

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Frederick Douglass was a fiery orator and his speeches were often published in various abolitionist newspapers. Among his well-known speeches is "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," presented in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, a version of which he published as a booklet. It is often studied in literature classes today. Douglass moved to Rochester in 1847, when he became the publisher of The North Star, an abolitionist weekly. There were approximately 500 attendees who heard him speak, each paying twelve and a half cents. He had been invited to speak about what the Fourth of July means for America's black population, and while the first part of his speech praises what the founding fathers did for this country, his speech soon develops into a condemnation of the attitude of American society toward slavery. Douglass begins his speech by addressing "Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens." Here, he is likely addressing the president of the Anti-Slavery Society — not the president of the United States. It is noteworthy that Douglass considers himself a citizen, an equal to the spectators in attendance. Throughout this speech, as well as his life, Douglass advocated equal justice and rights, as well as citizenship, for blacks. He begins his speech by modestly apologizing for being nervous in front of the crowd and recognizes that he has come a long way since his escape from slavery. He tells the audience that they have gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July, but he reminds them that the nation is young, and, like a young child, it is still impressionable and capable of positive change. He touches on the history of the American Revolutionaries' fight for freedom against their legal bondage under British rule. He tells the audience that he supports the actions of these revolutionaries. Douglass thereby sets up an argument for the freeing of slaves. He reminds the audience that, in 1776, many people thought it was subversive and dangerous to revolt...
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