Fredrick Douglas wrote and presented his What the Black Man Wants speech during the post civil war time period to demonstrate his straightforward views on the fact that even though the black race had just acquired freedom, they remained without equality and civil rights which gave their current freedom no meaning. Throughout his entire speech, Douglas rules over his audience with his parallel and emotional diction choice along with his assertive tone shifting towards anger and the answering of his own questions multiple times to emphasize his seriousness.
When Fredrick speaks to his audience, he does not choose all his words with the separation of blacks and whites in mind. He uses words such as “our”, “my friends” , or “my fellow men”, which he uses whenever he talks of his race’s desires. His words combine the whites and blacks as one, displaying to his audience that despite the discrimination, Douglas still believes that everyone is all part of the same family.
He places these including words all throughout his speech, assisting in the audiences grip of what Douglas wants them to know. He wants them to know everything he views about his desires for civil rights and is confidently upfront about it, using phrases such as “I want…” or “All i ask for is…” in a parallel structure that way the audience does not miss one single detail. This is why throughout the entirety of his speech a lot of the same equality words resurface, and the repetitive use of the same phrases, typically starting with “I”, or “We”, or “Us”, do so as well. Again, he does this on purpose that way every point he makes and every desire he wishes to see fulfilled is imbedded in each audience members mind, and hopefully sparks a desire in at least one of them for a change.
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Although Fredrick approaches his diction choice with an emotional and parallel structure, his assertive tone is what is really at work. His entire purpose, in short, is to persuade people towards equal treatment of races and civil rights for black people. He states what he wants, backs it up with his intense emotional views and points he wants to make, and uses the same sentence structure throughout the whole speech so that the audience does not miss a beat. Fredrick openly says in the second paragraph, “I do not agree with this.”, when talking about the objection of the premature Negro’s rights to suffrage. He openly discusses his emotions towards other topics of conflict as well without any fear. In paragraph three he gladly admits, “…women, as well as men, have the right to vote, and my heart and voice go with the movement to extend suffrage to women…” This sentence adds rocket fuel to Fredricks lunar expedition to justice. During his time period, women’s suffrage was almost as sought for as Black’s suffrage, therefore by extending his wishes for civil rights to the opposite gender and race he wins the favor of most women further strengthening his purpose. His attitude strengthens as well come paragraph four. His tone shifts from being assertive to angry. He starts exclaiming his thoughts on the white folks need for antagonising; how they should “Do nothing with us!” a instead of harassing a black man they should, “Let him alone! You see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him!” His anger creates an emotional anchor in the audience that isn’t sympathy like he requested no one to have, but guilt. Just as seen in the scarlet letter, guilt holds more power over other individuals than anything else, therefore this anchor will hopefully set forth the action to change within his audience.
Douglas uses his deeply assertive tone to address multiple rhetorical questions that hold high significance to him. There is a recurring pattern as well. He asks each question at a minimum of two times each, immediately provided the answer to the specific question, stating the answer a few times as well, or even answering it with another question like he did in paragraph three when he says, “Why do we want it?…This is the sufficient answer. Shall we at this moment justify the deprivation of the Negro of the right to vote, because someone else is deprived of that privilege?” These questions he asks come directly from the white people, and maintain high topics of interest to Douglas. That’s why when he goes over each one, he tends to be more and more assertive and angry as he nears the end. He wants nothing more than to spark a change. He hopes that by making an emotional impact while dropping an anchor on top of them with all black peoples thoughts carved into it, that they will take responsibility and for once make justice. His rhetorical question from paragraph four where he imitates, “What shall we do with the Negro?”, his answer of “Do nothing! Leave him alone!” is an example of him being the spokesman for his race. Although this is demonstrated throughout the entire speech, it is more so present in the questions in the third and fourth paragraphs. He took a whole new approach and stated his opinions with a hope that his audience would make the right choice with the info.
Just the fact that he presents this speech after the civil war when they were granted freedom really intensifies the problem of civil justice. Fredrick Douglas showed his audience that that freedom they had acquired honestly hardly meant a thing besides the fact that they couldn’t be owned anymore and could attend schools. Not only was his audience impacted but his fellow citizens as well. Through his parallel and heavy diction choice combined with his intense tone, and his direct focus on making sure that white people understood the answers to all the questions and points of view, his speech with heavy hopes would inspire the few good-hearted people out there to spark that needed change in racial justice.
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