Literature Study GuidesThe Hypocrisy Of American Slavery

The Hypocrisy Of American Slavery | Study Guide

Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass

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At a Glance

  • Though born into slavery, Frederick Douglass's (1818–95) natural abilities led to educational opportunities, which allowed him to become a great orator and a prolific writer. He became an abolitionist leader and a published author and gave many speeches about his experience as a slave.
  • After a failed attempt to escape slavery in 1833, Douglass managed to flee to New York City five years later. In 1841, after speaking at an antislavery convention in Nantucket, he became a sought-after public spokesperson. In 1845 he wrote an autobiography of his life and achieved widespread fame.
  • Douglass moved to Rochester, New York, in 1847 and made it his hometown. He owned and ran a newspaper, which he later called Frederick Douglass's Paper. In 1852 the organizers of a July 4th fundraiser hosted by Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society invited Douglass to speak, and he used his platform to fully expose the hypocrisy of an America that owned slaves and yet proclaimed liberty its greatest value.
  • Douglass gave the speech on July 4, 1852, to a crowd of around 600 mostly white abolitionists. Attendees were impressed by his passion and fully endorsed his words.
  • Douglass's speech remains a significant milestone in the long fight for full civil rights for African Americans. His words continue to resonate for all marginalized people seeking the full benefits of liberty that the United States promises but does not always deliver. It is a powerful reminder that citizens have a responsibility to compel their government to live up it its ideals.


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