Hypocracy Of American Slavery Essay Research Paper

Hypocracy Of American Slavery Essay, Research Paper

Fredrick Douglass

The Hypocrisy of American Slavery

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”

-Fredrick Douglass, The North Star

His point was clear, all those years ago. As Fredrick Douglass presented his thoughts in front of the citizens of Rochester in 1852; they came expecting to hear a proclamation of national greatness, a celebration of liberty on the fourth of July. Instead, they heard a stirring denunciation of slavery and the white American way of life. Ex-Slave, Fredrick Douglass was asked by local leaders to deliver a speech as part of their Fourth of July celebration in front of a crowd whose majority was undoubtedly white.(Wheeler) They most likely approved of slavery possibly even owning slaves themselves.(Payne) Little did they know that Douglass was preparing to use this opportunity to let White America know that this is a celebration of white independence, not Black independence. He let them know that the “white” Fourth of July has a completely different meaning to the Negro men and women who still have not gained their independence from the white Americans who now celebrate theirs. The phrase “all men are created equal”(constitution) to these men and women seems to be a blatant lie, and Douglas is able to take this opportunity to bring this to the audience’s attention.

Douglass is doing many things with is phrasing in this speech. He is both accusing his audience, and informing them. He is also both arguing, and persuading them. He accomplishes this feat by using clear cut and undeniable logic. His main arguments against slavery consisted of two very simple principals. First, he says that Black men are not animals and do not deserve to be treated as such.(Williams) He says that when we are “unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then I will argue with you that the slave is a man!”(Douglass) Second, he states that if Black and White men alike are able to work the same jobs, raise children together, and worship God together why are they still not equal? Why are some still held as slaves?

This brings us to the next point, in delivering this speech Frederick Douglass did not want to sound to angry or sound as though he was accusing his audience too fiercely.(Carstarphen) In order to avoid this he phrased many of his points as rhetorical questions. He asked many questions in a row until he had proved his point, expressed some anger(Star Tribune), and some resentment without displaying outright and blatant disregard for formal statutes.

When asking yourself if this speech has a message that is important to today’s society, I think there are a few things you have to keep in mind. Although this is not the same time or place, there are a few reoccurring themes in life that ring true throughout history. There have always been and will always be a group of people who express dominance over another less-powerful group. Although this dominance will be shown in different ways, it will be shown regardless. There is no doubt that the message Douglass delivers in this speech can be somehow twisted and applied to situations today and throughout history but his specific way of doing delivering the message was a one time experience. The message is important however, the message that life isn’t always fair, and when it isn’t fair there are always ways to get your message out. Frederick Douglass got his message out effectively enough for young men and women, both black and white to be reading it some 150 years after it was originally given.


1) http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/douglass.htm

This site has the entire Douglas speech, I used this site to read the speech and understand what he was talking about.

2) Linda Wheeler, Inspiration for a Servant of Freedom. The Washington Post. 2-14-2000

This article provided general information on Frederick Douglass and his accomplishments in freeing slaves.

3) Troup, Calvin L. Duquesne Public Speaking Workbook.

Pearson Custom Publishing, 1999.

I used this workbook to find the types of organization in order to correctly answer the essay question.

4) Williams, Andrew J. Frederick Douglass; The Man, the memoirs, the monuments. Time Magazine, 2-14-95.

This article helped me to realize just how much Douglass did for the rights of Blacks and how vital he was to the country as it is today.

5) Arguments for the ages//Frederick Douglass, “its not the light that is needed but the fire” Minneapolis star tribune, 2-28-99

This site provided insight into the argumentative aspects of Frederick Douglas and his troubles.

6) Carstarphen, Meta G. Choosing his words: ‘Selected Speeches and Writings’ shows breadth of Douglass’ intellect and dynamism. Dallas morning news, 2-20-99

This site was influential in my interpretation of Douglass’ use of word choice in his speeches.


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