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Comparing Frederick Douglass and Charles Langston

Throughout Americas history, many influential and historical figures have given significant speeches to impact views of the people. For example, Frederick Douglass and Charles Langston are powerful speakers who try to convince the white community that slavery should be abolished. Of the two distinctive speakers, Douglass is more persuasive and outspoken than Langston. As a former slave, Douglass uses his tragic experiences to bring life and passion into his words. While Langston addresses his audience in a mild manner, Douglass seems to be more adamant and strong in his beliefs and views.

Even though they approach their audiences differently, both touch upon a few similar topics. Both speakers discuss: law, religion, and common humanity to support and strengthen their speeches. Douglass and Langston point out that the laws of the U. S. are unfair and do not serve justice. Though both men bring up similar ideas, Douglass is the one who exudes his strong feelings of fury and discontent. He argues that black men are punished more severely for the same crimes that white men commit. Douglass says, Slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government.

They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. (217). He also brings up the fact that the law says black men are not allowed to be educated. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. (217).

Douglass makes it very clear that the U. S. laws are biased and unjust. He brings up examples of such laws by pointing out that even free black men are subject to arrest at any time. A white man is able to take any black man and say that he is a runaway slave. The supposed slave is then taken to court to either receive the sentence that he is a runaway slave or that he is indeed, a free man. However, because the courts are corrupt and tend to be prejudiced, the accused runaway slave usually does not receive a fair trial. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them, a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them.

An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. (222). Douglass fervently appeals to the crowd by pouring his soul and feelings into his speech. Langston, however, has an entirely different approach. He speaks calmly and definitely lacks the fire that Douglass brings into his speech. Langston says, The law under which I am arraigned is an unjust one, one made to crush the colored man, and one that outrages every feeling of humanity, as well as every rule of right. 34).

He feels that, due to prejudice, a colored man will obviously receive an unfair trial. Langston includes the remark, Black men have no rights which white men are bound to respect. (236). Langston and Douglass have the same intentions and ideas, yet Douglass seems to have a more powerful and effective style of speech. Both men also include the controversial topic of religion into their speeches. Throughout his speech, Douglass continuously intertwines his topics with religion and God. He does not understand how a country based on religious values and morals could have such an appalling form of human enslavement.

While talking about the Fugitive Slave Law, he states, I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it. (222). He points out, The fact that the church of our country does not esteem the Fugitive Slave Law as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, and empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards man. 23).

Douglass not only feels that the church is unconcerned by slavery, but he feels that the church even supports the enslavement of black men. If people show no mercy and do not conduct themselves in a compassionate manner, their worship is pointless and has no meaning. He goes far enough to say that the ministers turn religion into, a cold and flinty-hearted thing. (224). In Langstons speech, he also brings up the topic of religion. Unlike Douglass, Langston does not refer to religion in a negative tone. However, he mentions the supernatural force, God, several times to support his ideas.

Langston refers to God when he says, Being identified with that man by color, by race, by manhood, by sympathies, such as God had implanted in us all (233). Douglass and Langston refer to God and include religion in their speeches because they know that our country is based on Christian beliefs. Therefore, the people would be more affected and interested in their speeches. Douglass and Langston use law and religion as important factors in their speeches. However, the topic of common humanity seems to be of greater importance.

Slavery was an inhumane and destructive system, which caused peoples lives to fall apart. The slaves were cruelly torn from their family, friends, and way of life. Douglass touches upon this subject by saying, Cast one glanceupon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! Weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! (220). Treated like animals, they were viciously beaten and even worked to death.

Douglass tries to portray this outrage by describing brutal and intense scenes vividly. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. (220). Douglass not only describes such scenes, but he reflects on his own experiences and memories of slavery. He recalls, In the deep still darkness of midnight, I have been aroused by the dead heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door.

The anguish of my boyish heart was intense (221). He sums up how he feels in this phrase, Go where you maysearch out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival. (219). Heartfelt, and deeply emotional feelings are given to the audience to experience. However, Langston (born a free man) cannot understand to the depth of Douglass knowledge of slavery.

Due to the fact that Douglass first-handedly experienced the tortures of slavery, he is always one step ahead. In Langstons speech, he tries to portray the horrendous effects of slavery as well. He describes an event when slave-catchers were capturing numerous black men to take back to plantations as a fugitive slaves. It was to the extent that mothers were afraid to send their children to school because a slave-catcher might snatch a child on his/her way. Any free slave could be claimed a fugitive runaway and be taken back to a dreaded plantation.

Langston states that all free men were, trembling alike for their safety, because they well knew their fate, should those men-hunters get their hands on them. (233). Langston and Douglass are both zealous in their efforts to help abolish slavery. However, Douglass seems to word his disturbing thoughts and feelings in a better format. He brings the audience into the captivity and horrors of slavery. Being of a more passive nature, Langston does not get his point across to the same degree. Douglass rhetorical strategy is obvious more persuasive and effective than that of Langstons.

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