The essay was written in 1852, and was addressed to “the President of the United States, Friends, and Fellow Citizens (Douglas 1852.)”
The meaning of the essay is pretty straight forward and falls in line with Douglas’ abolitionist views leading up to and during the American Civil War. The essay reminds Americans that while they are celebrating their freedom from tyranny and political freedom, slaves and former slaves were still being oppressed and that the promise of “all men were created equal” was not being fulfilled. Douglas expressed this by saying, “This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn (Douglas 1852.)”
I immediately began to think about the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes. The obvious reason would be that each author speaks of the times leading up to the Civil War referencing slavery. After deeper thought, the two works are similar due to the tone of the pieces. Each work attempts show the human side of slaves. Both speak of ancestors and detail that slaves were not property, but humans. Humans have feelings, relatives, and ancestors. Instead of painting all slave holders as evil, both attempt to show that all slaves were humans and have roots and emotions and ways of thinking. Douglas uses his pen to show that slaves have emotions and thought processes as well on a day that most people think is a celebration. Hughes portrays that he has roots all the way back to the beginning of time just as any other person would. Instead of playing a blame game of sorts, both authors instead appeal to the emotions and show that slaves were humans just like everyone reading the work.
I really have enjoyed reading through all sorts of literature with you all over the past eight weeks. I genuinely was worried how this class would go. I am glad we all stuck it out. Good luck to everyone with your academic goals going forward.
Douglas, Frederick, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july/