Thelma Willis Foote's What To The Slave

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The exploration of the “new world” led by Christopher Columbus was a complete success. Determined to bring back something of worth for the Spanish who funded his trip, Columbus searched the regions of what he thought was India until he eventually struck the proverbial gold. Not only were his endeavors rewarded with gold, jewels and spies, but Columbus and his Spanish crew also discovered a new breed of people, “Indians.” His findings brought not only wealth and possibility to the old world, but also started a trend in the treatment and exploitation of people which would carry over time through various means and degrees and ultimately motivate great two great American writers to pen a call for independence and equality. Though written in…show more content…
Like Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass’, a freed slave and abolitionist, found himself influenced by the principles of Enlightenment. In his Independence Day speech at Rochester, aptly titled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?, Douglass calls for the nation to recognize the hypocrisy of slavery most evident on a day celebrating national independence. Like Paine, Douglass asked thought provoking questions calling for the recognition of ones own actions, “[. . .] why am I called upon here to speak today?” (Douglass 2140). He further elaborates his inquisition by rhetorically asking, “Are the great principles of political freed and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” (Douglass 2140). The answer is obvious. Douglass presented this speech to an audience filled with abolitionists which he considered friends. Therefore, it is safe to presume that his intent was not malicious but rather, a method of calling for man to recognize their own errors. While the abolitionist movement had already emerged, the battle was not yet won making a celebration of independence another slap on the face of a slave, free or not.…show more content…
While white abolitionists called on him to celebrate “freedom” Douglass, cannot shake, “the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are to-day rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them” (2141). Regardless of the fact that there existed “freed” black men, actual freedom was no where on the horizon and Douglass fed his audience examples of the unjust liberty that freed men like himself had to endure, “There are seventy-two crimes in the state of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be,) subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of these same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment” (2142). For those, abolitionists included, who felt that there was hope to be held in persuasive argument Douglass states, “where all is plain there is nothing to be argued” (2141). The issue of slavery was not one of who is right and who is wrong for, as Douglass points out, there was nothing right about slavery. No excuse could justify a man treating another man in a way which he would not like
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