What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?

by Frederick Douglass
Start Free Trial

What does the end of Douglass's speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" mean? How does it relate to the patriotic ideology of the Fourth of July?

The end of Douglass's speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" examines his belief that the United States' greatness and endless striving for growth will eventually result in the end of slavery.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The bulk of Frederick Douglass 's lengthy speech points out the hypocrisy of a people who celebrate liberty while keeping others in bondage. However, Douglass ends by drawing on the same optimistic and idealistic ideology which he criticized just a few moments before. He points out that the nation has...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The bulk of Frederick Douglass's lengthy speech points out the hypocrisy of a people who celebrate liberty while keeping others in bondage. However, Douglass ends by drawing on the same optimistic and idealistic ideology which he criticized just a few moments before. He points out that the nation has come a long way since its founding. He states that he is encouraged by the abolitionist forces of change that are in action.

He praises the fact that people are less ignorant in his time than in previous generations. International connections are being strengthened by new technologies and the growth of commerce. This helps to impart a global perspective. He points out that Americans have the penchant for improvement and that leads him to hope that the days of slavery are numbered.

This last part of the speech shows that Douglass truly was an idealist. It would be easy for him to despair. Indeed, if one were to only examine the other parts of this speech, he would come off as a pessimist. However, Douglass embodies the American character of constantly striving for growth. He believes that the United States can become the land of liberty its people claim it is. His speech ends by invoking all the many amazing advances of his day and implying that the abolition of slavery will soon be one of them, too.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team