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Frederick Douglass and Angelina Grimke


During the nineteenth century reformers took on a number of issues. How does Frederick Douglass condemn slavery within his Fourth of July speech? In what ways does Angelina Grimke move from abolition to women's rights in her thinking?

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Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July:


From Angelina Grimké,
Letter in The Liberator (August 2, 1837)

The daughters of a prominent South Carolina slaveholder, Angelina and Sarah Grimké became abolitionists after being sent to Philadelphia for education. In this article, Angelina Grimké explains how participation in the movement against slavery led her to a greater recognition of women's lack of basic freedoms.

Angelina Grimké, Letter in The Liberator (August 2, 1837)
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Since I engaged in the investigation of the rights of the slave, I have necessarily been led to a better understanding of my own; for I have found the Anti-Slavery cause to be...the school in which human rights are more fully investigated, and better understood and taught, than in any other [reform] enterprise....Here we are led to examine why human beings have any rights. It is because they are moral beings....Now it naturally occurred to me, that if rights were founded in moral being, then the circumstance of sex could not give to man higher rights and responsibilities, than to woman....
When I look at human beings as moral beings, all distinction in sex sinks to insignificance and nothingness; for I believe it regulates rights and responsibilities no more than the color of the skin or the eyes. My doctrine, then is, that whatever it is morally right for man to do, it is morally right for woman to do....This regulation of duty by the mere circumstance of sex...has led to all that [numerous] train of evils flowing out of the anti-christian doctrine of masculine and feminine virtues. By this doctrine, man has been converted into the warrior, and clothed in sternness...whilst woman has been taught to lean upon an arm of flesh, admired for her personal charms, and caressed and humored like a spoiled child, or converted into a mere drudge to suit the convenience of her lord and master....It has robbed woman of...the right to think and speak and act on all great moral questions, just as men think and speak and act....
The discussion of the wrongs of slavery has opened the way for the discussion of other rights, and the ultimate result will most certainly be...the letting of the oppressed of every grade and description go free.

From Frederick Douglass,
Speech on July 5, 1852, Rochester, New York

One of the most prominent reform leaders of his era, Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and soon became an internationally known writer and orator against slavery. His speech of July 1852 condemned the hypocrisy of a nation that proclaimed its devotion to freedom while practicing slavery. It was reprinted in 1855 in his autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?...Such is not the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us....The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me....
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships,...acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries...confessing and worshiping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!...
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery?...that men have a natural right to freedom?...To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him....
What, to the American slave, is your 4th 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; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

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How does Frederick Douglass condemn slavery within his Fourth of July speech? In what ways does Angelina Grimke move from abolition to women's rights in her thinking.

Grimke accurately moves from abolition to women's rights by aligning the two in regard to a universal human right against oppression of human beings. It dawned ...

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The following posting discusses how Frederick Douglass condemns slavery within his Fourth of July speech and the ways that Angela Grimke moves from abortion to women's rights.