Who Is Frederick Douglass

“I have one great political idea… That idea is an old one. It is widely and generally found in the Bible. It is in substance, ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people’ . This constitutes my politics… the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics.” – Frederick Douglass

In Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave one of his most famous speeches, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” or “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” The most frequently quoted lines are an unflinching indictment of American hypocrisy:

“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 the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham.”
Yet Douglass also asserted the actual words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution supported the cause of abolition, ending his speech on an optimistic note:

“Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work The downfall of slavery. ‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain.”