What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July Rhetorical Analysis

913 Words4 Pages
Sarah Schaefer
Mrs. Kolich
AP Language and Composition
3 November 2014
A Rhetorical Analysis of “What to the Slave, Is the Fourth of July”
Sweat rolled down the backs of an attentive audience. Despite the sweltering temperature, a crowd had gathered to listen to a renowned orator celebrate the birthday of their fine new nation. The day was July 5th, 1852, and Frederick Douglass was poised to deliver what would soon become his most famous speech, “What to the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?” Commissioned to be a cheerful hurrah, it instead scathes the unexpected audience, bringing to light the overabundance of hypocrisies dwelling in America’s Independence Day celebration. Asked simply to give a speech, Frederick Douglass seizes the opportunity
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He greets them with a reserved yet cheerful, “Mr. President, Friends, and Fellow Citizens…” (117). He remains respectful of those in authority, while simultaneously conveying to his audience that he, a black man and freed slave, shares in their celebrated citizenship. Douglass, however, does not limit his correlation with the audience there; he then goes so far as to address them as “friends”. This greeting and introduction perfectly prefaces the righteous ridicule that is to come. These men, products of the free town of Rochester, are oblivious to the absurd juxtaposition that is present before…show more content…
He has shown that the “blessings in which you, this day rejoice, are not enjoyed in common” (124). With the purpose of his speech firmly defined, he now has the liberty to expound upon the true evil of slavery that lurks in the shadow of hypocrisy. He employs the satirical technique of ridicule to expose the ugly nature of enslavement with equally ugly diction. Douglass’ disapproval ranges from “hideous” to “revolting” to “an outrage”, and culminates in the assertion that slavery is the “greatest sin and shame of America” (125). A far cry from the almost reverent tone of his opening statements, Douglass led his audience from the throes of a Fourth of July celebration to an intense degradation of the freedom they so
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