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.”
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“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.”