Who is deserving of Liberty?

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to Liberty? – Fredrick Douglass, 1852

The Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4th of 1776, stated that all men are created equal. However, in the eyes of a negro slave living in the South, that statement is far from true. Fredrick Douglass sought to it that people realize the irony and hypocrisy of that statement by shedding a light on slavery. In deliverance of his oration, Douglass began by talking about Independence Day. Douglass uses the term your instead of our when stating “It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom”, somberly implying, that political freedom does not apply to him.  

He goes on to talk about how in this day and age, affirming the equal manhood of blacks should be enough. He states that black people shouldn’t have to prove their manhood when they are “…ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers… “. Does one need to prove any further that they are deserving of the same liberties as everyone else in their country? In the eyes of the Declaration of Independence, the negro race are deserving of the same liberties as everyone else. However, there are some, namely racist white folks, who refuse to acknowledge that. During this time, white people felt as if they were in a position of power to segregate America all on the grounds of skin color.

Everyone, including slaveowners, were able to see the wrongfulness of slavery. Slavery in and of itself is morally and objectively wrong. It is wrong to “…work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters…”. Why should it even be put into question how awful this system is? It is apparent that slavery, racism, and bigotry goes against everything America stands for.

Though slavery was abolished, the repercussions of it still exists today. Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that none of the creators of the Declaration of Independence felt entirely comfortable stating in the document that all men are created equal. They felt hypocritical in writing that in since most of them owned slaves. Coates describes the story of Clyde Ross: as a buyer for a new home, he had faced a significant amount of racism. He bought his house “on contract”, in other words, having all the responsibilities a homeowner, with the disadvantages of a renter, and experiencing the negative effects of both. Ross had to pay a much higher price for his home, compared to the white individual who owned it beforehand. Chicago’s impoverished black neighborhoods are characterized as “ecologically distinct.” instead of “of low economic status,”. There is a major difference in the two statements. 

The argument stands that all men are entitled to liberty, but not all are granted liberty. America proclaims it is the home of the free, but Douglass and Coates would argue that statement is false.


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