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Frederick Douglass (September 2018): Oratory

By Duncan R. Jamieson


In Frederick Douglass: Oratory from Slavery, historian David B. Chesebrough traces Douglass’s oratorical skills in relation to his contemporaries, analyzing the techniques he used. Professor of Communications Gregory P. Lampe’s Frederick Douglass: Freedom’s Voice, 1818–1845, contends his oratorical skills rest in the African oral tradition. Frederick Douglass’s Curious Audiences: Ethos in the Age of the Consumable Subject, by Terry Baxter, shows how Douglass persuaded his white audiences of the evils of slavery through his personal qualities, despite the belief that his speeches were mere entertainment. In the same vein, speech professor Ronald K. Burke, in Frederick Douglass: Crusading Orator for Human Rights, demonstrates the multitude of techniques Douglass employed  to connect to his audiences on both an intellectual and an emotional level. In Voice in the Slave Narratives of Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Solomon Northrup, Professor of English Carver Wendall Waters finds a connection to the African oral tradition and the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional themes that connect to freedom.