Frederick Douglass's “Glib-tongue”
African American Rhetoric and the Language of National Belonging
This chapter outlines how Frederick Douglass deploys a series of speech acts in his 1852 “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” address and 1852 novella The Heroic Slave to manipulate the accepted national idioms on the right-of-revolution as a means to critique slavery as anathema to democracy itself. In theorizing Douglass's creation of a polyphonic discourse system, the chapter traces how he uses a contrapuntal mechanism to alternate black and white voices in the debates about democracy. In particular, the chapter reveals how Douglass stylizes repetition as the sonic device of the reverb to manipulate Patrick Henry's well-known expression “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” to legitimate mid-century black liberation movements as specifically American.
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