Frederick Douglass's 'What a Slave Is the Fourth of July?' Speech: Uncomfortable Points

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Fredick Douglass, born into slavery in 1818, in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass is in fact known for giving an astounding speech. In 1852, Douglas was invited to give a speech at Independence Day celebration. His speech, 'What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?' was delivered at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York. There were around 500 people in attendance that paid twelve cents to listen. He was there to speak about what the fourth of July means for us black people. The speech first starts out with douglass praising the founding fathers of this country and their ideas of how perfect they planned on the Republic to look. He understood that the Declaration of Independence wasn't for all citizens. His speech later develops into the viewpoint of the White Americans towars slavery. Throughout his famous speech there way many uncomfortable points made towards his white audience.

“This, for the purpose of this celebration is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom”. This is one way in which Frederick Douglass stresses the different historical significance of the 4th of July for whites and blacks is by repeatedly using the word ‘your’ when explaining the exclusion of blacks from American history. This speech alone contains the word ‘your’ over 100 times. Douglass substitute the “The” in The Declaration of Independence, to “That” Declaration of Independence. He uses this to express our separation from theirs. He was making his point on how “That” Declaration of Independence was not for us. This here alone would make the white audendience feel like they were doing something unconsciously wrong.

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“This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God”. The religious analogy–comparing the emancipation of the Jews from Egypt to the independence of the American nation from England–makes of American nationalism a civic religion, with the founding fathers as high priests and the founding documents as sacred texts.

“I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young”. Once again Douglass shows the disparity between living as an enslaved Negro in the United States and living as a free Caucasian. Although they are “Fellow citizens”. He still refers to the country as yours. Implying that while they might all live in the same independent country, it only truly belonged to the white ruling class.

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Frederick Douglass’s ‘What a Slave Is the Fourth of July?’ Speech: Uncomfortable Points. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“Frederick Douglass’s ‘What a Slave Is the Fourth of July?’ Speech: Uncomfortable Points.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Frederick Douglass’s ‘What a Slave Is the Fourth of July?’ Speech: Uncomfortable Points. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
Frederick Douglass’s ‘What a Slave Is the Fourth of July?’ Speech: Uncomfortable Points [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from:

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