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Frederick Douglass 1865 Speech Review Essay

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Updated: Jun 29th, 2022

When pondering the idea of liberty in the modern American context, people tend to seem slightly annoyed by the fact that this notion has been nothing but a part of their daily life for centuries. However, when taking a closer look at American history, it becomes evident that the notion of liberty is frequently tackled due to the fact that there would always be a discrepancy in understanding of the idea. It is vivid between the freedom perceived by the government and the freedom people are craving. A prime example of such a drastic misunderstanding is expressed in Frederick Douglass’s 1865 speech. Standing in front of the president, Douglass says: “for in fact, if he is not the slave of the individual master, he is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right” (“What the Black Man Wants – Teaching American History,” para. 3). Speaking of the position of the Black men in society, the man’s words still resonate in the 21st century.

Today’s perception of liberty and equality has been distorted by the laws and regulations outlined in the American law and their perception in the context of daily life. Showing no explicit despise, people tend to undermine the human abilities of Black people due to their prejudice formed genetically for generations. In the words of Douglass, “the Germans are superior to us; the Irish are superior to us; the Yankees are superior to us … But while I make this admission, I utterly deny, that we are originally, or naturally, or practically, or in any way, or in any important sense, inferior to anybody on this globe” (“What the Black Man Wants – Teaching American History,” para. 7). Hence, the following speech is nothing but a manifestation of basic human rights that were never a privilege for White people.

As early as 1865, F. Douglass realized the problem with the social perception of Black people. He emphasized the issue by saying that “policy is our chief danger at the present moment; that it practically enslaves the Negro, and makes the Proclamation of 1863 a mockery and delusion” (“What the Black Man Wants – Teaching American History,” para. 2). Considering this speech, it becomes evident that there is a huge problem with today’s society if we tend to find common truth in the words said almost two centuries ago.

Reference

Teaching American History, 2013. Web.

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