Book details

Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July

Author: James A. Colaiaco

Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July

Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July


About This Book

An important look at Frederick Douglass' pivotal July 4th, 1852, speech in which he identified the grand American Dilemma--the critical contradiction between slavery and our nation's ideals--and set the stage for his life's work

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Book Details

On July 5th, 1852, Frederick Douglass, one of the greatest orators of all time, delivered what was arguably the century's most powerful abolition speech. At a time of year where American freedom is celebrated across the nation, Douglass eloquently summoned the country to resolve the contradiction between slavery and the founding principles of our country. In this book, James A. Colaiaco vividly recreates the turbulent historical context of Douglass' speech and delivers a colorful portrait of the country in the turbulent years leading to the civil war. This book provides a fascinating new perspective on a critical time in American history.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Press



In The News

“With incisive analysis and elegant prose, Colaiaco explains the rhetorical atmosphere in which Douglass crafted and delivered his speech.” —Publishers Weekly

“A critical evaluation of the magisterial address that Frederick Douglass, the preeminent African American abolitionist and orator, gave in observance of Independence Day...[Colaiaco] studies the gnawing contradictions between the ideals expressed by the men who conceived the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and the American conundrum of freedom deferred that Douglass reckoned with. This compelling book would be welcome in all public and academic libraries.” —Library Journal

“If you're feeling blasé about this year's observance of our oldest patriotic holiday, James A. Colaiaco's Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July should stir you out of complacency. It is a meticulously researched meditation on the epic life of Frederick Douglass and the famous speech he delivered...What makes [it] essential reading is its deepening of one's appreciation for how the color-blind, malleable Constitution is a tissue of ambiguity and compromises...A work that vividly demonstrates why, as the author says, 'Frederick Douglass has earned a place among the great intellectual luminaries of the United States.'” —The Wall Street Journal

“The latest in a panoply of important recent books about pivotal speeches from the nineteenth century--an age in which political oratory had all the power of today's mass media--this book stands out as an essential contribution to the genre. James A. Colaiaco transports us to the ferment of the sectional crisis, breathing vivid new life into one of its greatest figures, Frederick Douglass, not only as a symbol, but also as a writer and an orator. His examination of this long-forgotten masterpiece is long overdue and superbly realized.” —Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln at Cooper Union, co-chairman US Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

“Colaiaco's insightful account explores one of our country's greatest intellectual treasures--the thought and eloquence of Frederick Douglass. Colaiaco reminds us of Douglass's gifts as an orator, writer, and agitator for equal rights, and tells a compelling story of his indispensable role in nineteenth century America.” —Philip Dray, author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America

About the Creators

Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July

Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July