The Coming of the Civil War
Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July (1852)
About This Text
Author: Frederick Douglass
Composed: 1852 CE
On July 5th, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” at a meeting organized by the Rochester (NY) Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass’ speech focused on the irony of American freedom, and laid out his argument against slavery, in particular the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The speech condemns the slave trade as well as its links to the economic system of the nation and criticizes celebrating American independence in light of Southern slavery. Douglass also used the speech as an opportunity to mollify fears of emancipation and make abolitionism more appealing to Northerners.