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The Emancipation Proclamation and Fredrick Douglass’s Speech


The Emancipation Proclamation and the speech by Fredrick Douglass were instrumental in turning the national tide against slavery. Douglass’s speech decried the treatment and suffering of the slaves in the United States and how they had to contend with the reality every July 4th when the country was in jubilation (Lande, 2020). In signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln sought to unite the states against the slaveholders: economically, morally, and politically. The document promised a lot to the slaves, but little progress and achievements have been realized (Cramer, 2019). The essay will examine how the country has failed to honor the Emancipation Proclamation promise and Douglass’s speech, considering the racial inequalities and limited opportunities people of color face in the nation today.

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Success and Failures of Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation set the stage for the Civil War, marking the end of slavery in the Southern States. The document stands out since it paved the way for nation-wide condemnation of slavery, with the freed slaves getting the leeway to be absorbed in the military and Northern States (Cramer, 2019). For instance, President Abraham Lincoln declared in the executive order that by the powers vested in him as commander in chief, all people held in servitude in the south will henceforth be free (Cramer, 2019). Freeing the slaves allowed them to enjoy more liberties in the American society.

The Emancipation Proclamation made it possible to integrate people of color (POC) into mainstream society. For example, President Lincoln states that all such persons suitable for military services will be accommodated in the armed services, making it possible for the POC to get gainful employment (Cramer, 2019). The declaration led to the widespread movement of slaves from the south, with about 20,000 joining and serving in the Union Army (Cramer, 2019). However, the promise of the document has been undermined by leaders within the nation, considering the passing of Jim Crow legislation, among others, to undermine the status of blacks.

Success and Failures of Fredrick Douglass’s Speech

In outlining how the July 4th celebrations in the country were a preserve for the few, Douglass explains how the blacks use the day to mourn. Douglass argues the shouts of liberty made on July 4th are a mockery, and the prayers or hymns sang are a deception of the truth (Lande, 2020). The United States has a history of slavery in which the blacks have suffered immensely from their fellow citizens’ action and inaction. Douglass’s speech brought to the limelight the injustice people of color had to endure in the country every Independence Day as the nation made merry (Lande, 2020). Douglass’s proclamation outlines the need for people of goodwill to stand up against the oppression of others, which is imperative today as it was then (Lande, 2020). For instance, there is a need to call out the national hypocrisy, which supports the integration and unity of all citizens, while blacks are maimed and killed at disproportionate numbers by police or jailed.

American Society Reflection of These Ideals

The United States citizens are responsible for reflecting on the promise made through the Emancipation Proclamation and the Douglass speech. The review of how people’s activities within the communities support racism or disenfranchise others will ensure more people become conscious of their contribution to the problems facing the nation (Cramer, 2019). The promise of equality and liberty need to be enjoyed by all people, without discrimination influencing what occurs. For example, there is a need for the fair and just treatment of all community members, without their skin tone or ancestry influencing what is done.


The promise of an end to slavery outlined in the Emancipation Proclamation was not comprehensive and strategic. The Civil War freed the blacks but failed to give them much-needed liberty socially, politically, and economically. During the Reconstruction Era, the freed slaves would be shunned by the Northern States to favor national reconciliation and profit. The failure to follow through the promise has seen people of color continue to suffer injustice since they experience both implicit and explicit racism today.


Cramer, A. J. (2019). Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation and the failure to comply with the Fifth Amendment taking requirement. Lincoln Mem’l UL Rev., 6, 1.

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Lande, J. (2020). “Lighting up the path of liberty and justice”: Black abolitionist fourth of July celebrations and the promise of America from the Fugitive Slave Act to the Civil War. The Journal of African American History, 105(3), 364-395.

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