Frederick Douglass on the Failure of Religion

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In Frederick Douglass’s speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", the great orator lashes out at America’s hypocrisy and its neglect of the slavery issue…

Introduction

Douglass criticized the mishandling and squandering of our forefathers commitment to liberty as generations lavished in the memory of the revolution without bearing the burden of its responsibility. He praises the principles of freedom, liberty, and morality that our nation was built upon. Yet, he uses the opportunity to remind his audience that liberty was a concept that been abandoned by its religious leaders, and for those left in bondage it was not a day to celebrate freedom, but a day to recognize the difficult road that lie ahead of all America.
Douglass framed his speech with the understanding that there were two Americas. The two Americas were split by the deep foundation of liberty and the oppressive nature of slavery. Recognizing that the two could not exist as one, Douglass remarks on the division when he talks of, “…a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary!”. Douglass lived in his America, where the Fourth of July was not a day of celebration, but a day to remember and honor those that were left behind in shackles.
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