From Publishers Weekly
On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at a meeting sponsored by the Rochester (N.Y.) Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society. The speech, and indeed the meeting itself, were contrived to provide a counter-celebration to Independence Day. Speaker after speaker, Douglass among them, took aim at the cherished pieties of the nation: the memory of the Revolution, the elusive ideal of liberty for all, and the country's moral and religious foundation. As NYU professor Colaiaco (Socrates Against Athens
) makes clear, Douglass's biting oratory on that occasion resonated loudly across a startled country. "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine," he told his white listeners. "You may rejoice, I must mourn." Douglass's remarks dove to the heart of the hypocrisy upon which the American nation had been founded. With incisive analysis and elegant prose, Colaiaco explains the rhetorical atmosphere in which Douglass crafted and delivered his speech. More than one abolitionist by then was rising up to call for a "second American Revolution," to fulfill the spirit of 1776's fine words. Douglass's eloquence added to the sharpness of this clarion call, while also drawing a firm line between the romantic folklore and grim reality of American liberty. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Antebellum audiences enjoyed patriotic speeches on Independence Day, but a white Rochester, New York, crowd in 1852 was about to be surprised. At the rostrum was their neighbor, Frederick Douglass, who, instead of the expected encomium to the founding of the U.S., delivered a scorching denunciation of the preservation of slavery. A New York University teacher, Colaiaco analyzes this and other speeches, including Douglass' famously ambivalent 1876 commemoration of Abraham Lincoln, via several avenues: paraphrasing and quoting (this work does not reprint the speeches verbatim), rhetorical technique, and constitutional interpretation. The most memorable element in the Rochester speech was Douglass' deployment of the second person to illustrate the chasm between your
freedoms as whites under the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and slavery. But as Colaiaco stresses, Douglass held out a redemptive hope, his belief that the Constitution did not in its heart permit slavery. Extending the trend for "biographies" of speeches, Colaiaco's careful study recaptures Douglass' reputation as one of America's greatest orators. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved