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What to a slave is the 4th of July?

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Title: What to a slave is the 4th of July?  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 1852 speeches, Speeches by Frederick Douglass, Independence Day (United States), Albert Barnes (theologian), Frederick Douglass
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

What to a slave is the 4th of July?

The speech, commonly republished as "What to a slave is the 4th of July?" or "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", is an untitled speech originally given by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852.[1] He originally gave the speech to the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y.[1] The speech is over 10,000 words long.[1]

While discussing the celebrations of the American Independence day the day before, the speech explores the constitutional and values-based arguments against the Slave trade within the United States.[1] Douglass's main focus is on how positive statements of American values, such as liberty, citizenship and freedom, did not resonate with slaves and other African Americans because of the history associated with those concepts.[2] Rhetoricians R.L. Heath and D. Waymer called this topic the "paradox of the positive" because it highlights how something positive and meant to be positive can also exclude individuals.[2]


  • Legacy 1
    • Notable readings 1.1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4


In the United States, the speech is widely taught in history and English classes in high school and college.[1] However, American studies professor Andrew S. Bibby argues that because many of the editions produced for educational use are abridged, they often misrepresent Douglas's original through omission or editorial focus.[1]

Notable readings

The speech has been notably performed or read by a number of important figures, including:

  • James Earl Jones[1]
  • Morgan Freeman[1]
  • Danny Glover[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bibby, Andrew S. (July 2, 2014). What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?': Frederick Douglass's fiery Independence Day speech is widely read today, but not so widely understood."'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 13, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Heath, Robert L.; Waymer, Damion (2009). "Activist Public Relations and the Pardox of the Positive A Case Study of Frederick Douglass's Fourth of July Address". Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II: 192–215. 

Further reading

  • Bizzell, Patricia (1997-02-01). "The 4th of July and the 22nd of December: The Function of Cultural Archives in Persuasion, as Shown by Frederick Douglass and William Apess". College Composition and Communication 48 (1): 44–60.  
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