FrederickDouglass Paper Review
Thepaper was written by one of the greatest and most courageousabolitionists in the history of the abolition movement in the UnitedStates Fredrick Douglass. Douglass was a strong believer in freedomfor all, a philosophy that informed his writings and anti-slaveryactivities in the nineteenth century. Douglass was brought born in1918 in Maryland and bought up in a slavery environment where hismother was held as a slave (William 6). He secretly tried to learnhow to read and write, which gave him some literacy. He later escapedslavery and started his abolitionist activities and preaching, whichsaw him travel to different places for the same purpose (William 29).He advocated for equal rights, women’s rights and freedom of slavesamong other concerns. In his advocacy, he wrote books and articles,one of which is the article under discussion.
Hewrote the article “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” on5thJuly 1852, just a day after the celebration of the Fourth of July,the independence day of the United States (Douglass 1). In writingthe article, he sought to address the experiences of the slaves inthe United States and present their plight to the world. Hespecifically focused on the lack of freedom for the slaves in amanner that reflected the irony in the Americans celebrating freedom.This article was informed by his abolitionist belief and quest to seethe end of slavery in the United States. Therefore, he saw itappropriate to write the article in the form of a question about thereal meaning of the Fourth of July to the slaves in the country.
Thecontext of the article is particularly accurate for the point thatDouglass was trying to make at the time. His point was that slaveshad no freedom to celebrate about, as Americans were celebratingbeing free. To put this point across in the right perspective,Douglass wrote the article at a time when Americans were celebratingtheir freedom on the Independence Day. The irony is that Americanswere celebrating freedom while they were the same people who hadenslaved the black people in the same country (Douglass 1). ToDouglass, there was no point of celebrating for the slaves as therewas nothing to celebrate about. Therefore, the article wasspecifically meant to mock the American society about the irony.
Inaddition, the article sought to address the plight of the slaves in amanner that the American society would not fail to see. In thearticle, he gives a perfectly presents the lack of independence forthe slaves in a country that claims to be independent and braggingabout a free state. In this view, Douglass wrote the article to pointout at the inability of the United States as a country to stand byits ideals and democracy. In fact, Douglass cites several instanceswhere the slaves lived like third class citizens by being treated asif they were not human beings. He cites the cases of slaves beingbeaten and sold for cash as if they were items for the whites(Douglass 1). This totally contradicts the idea that America wasreally celebrating freedom or independence on the Fourth of July.
Inaddition, Douglass writes this article to remind the American societyof the history behind the Fourth of July and the ideals that Americasought to stand for. The article seeks to point out the way thefounders of America believed in freedom and independence, yet thesame ideals were never practiced in a country that claims to bedemocratic. In one instance, Douglass gives a case of glaringviolation of justice by The Congress when it passed the FugitiveSlave Law to return the escaped slaves to slavery under their masters(Douglass 1). The article therefore points out at the actions ofAmerica as a nation that makes the Fourth of July a meaningless daynot only for slaves but also for the country.
Inmy opinion, the article significantly influences the United States bypointing out the plight and injustices being inflicted on the slaves.It became an illustration of the irony of the United States withregard to freedom. On one side, the United States claimed to respectdemocracy and freedom for all while on the other it was busyenslaving the black people. I think the article gives an honest andgenuine reflection of the injustice the American nation had done tothe slaves, while claiming to believe in freedom.
Ibelieve that the article influenced the American society to changetheir view about slaves. The article pointed out the need for theslaves to also share the freedom and independence that the whiteAmericans were celebrating in claiming the ideals that brought forththe Fourth of July. Even if the article did not have immediateresults in changing the plight of the slaves at the time, I believethe views of Douglass were well communicated to the society. Thisarticle, therefore inspired the abolitionists to fight for the end ofthe slave trade and freedom for all. I also believe that this articlelater inspired the advocates for the civil rights movement that sawAmerica transform to a better society that believes in the idealsthat brought forth the Fourth of July.
Douglass,Fredrick. “Whatto the Slave is the Fourth of July”Web,Accessed, August 31, 2015,<http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july>
WilliamMcFeely. FrederickDouglass.New York: Norton, 1995, Print