A full century-and-a-half before President Barack Obama began mesmerizing the country with his moving oratory, another Black man gave what some call his greatest speech.
Frederick Douglass had not only a White parent and fatherless upbringing in common with America’s future leader; he also shared Obama’s vision to change government. It was in Rochester, New York, July 1852 when the ex-slave challenged White slavery opponents to step up their game, giving the speech that author David W. Blight describes as “abolition’s rhetorical masterpiece.”
“Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?” Douglass asked. “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim.”
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