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What to the Slave is the Fourth of July

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When the basic rights of a human are denied to their face, a fight for change is inevitable. Some of the most significant factors that motivate people to struggle for change are equality, freedom and justice.

The first factor that motivates people to struggle for change is equality. In Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I A Woman speech, she speaks from her personal experience as a former slave and black woman in the 1800’s advocating for women’s rights among other things. In her speech, she especially reflects on the mistreatment of African American women. “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?” She is addressing the fallacy in the typical man's argument that women are fragile and must be helped in every circumstance, illustrating them to be less than the man, when in fact the African American woman is not treated the same way as the white man claims the white woman to be. This clearly shows an inequality between the sexes and races. She also goes on to criticize the lack of equal recognition when she states, “I have ploughing and planted and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?” Truth is proving that she is capable of doing all the work a man could do, yet she is not allowed the same rights. Truth closes her speech referring to the Bible by stating that if a single woman had the strength to turn the world upside down, women would have no problem turning it right side up again.

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Another push factor to struggle for change would be freedom and justice. Fredrick Douglass, also a former slave and abolitionist, is invited to speak on the Fourth of July. He takes this opportunity to call out the hypocrisy of the celebration in What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? In his biting oratory he states, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You must rejoice, I must mourn.” He then continues to ask them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”  With the separation of “yours” and “mine”, he reminds them that the holiday may be a celebration for white Americans, but it is still a day of mourning for slaves and former slaves. The day is just a cruel reminder of the unfulfilled promises of equal liberty and justice for all in the Declaration of Independence.

Others may argue that prosperity individually is also one of the most important factors someone would struggle for but one could argue that prosperity is impossible when you are oppressed. Prosperity does not always mean affluence. It often encompasses wealth but also can include other, more spiritual notions independent of money such as the general health, happiness and security of a person. This meaning emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment and acceptance among others. During the Lemon Grove Incident, Mexican students are sent to a separate school made specifically to segregate them from the white students. This ‘school’, being taught by only two teachers, lacked the proper skill to give the children an equally good education and segregated the children because of the color of their skin. The parents of these children decided to fight for a change because they knew it was unfair and they wanted their children to be given the same opportunity to prosper as the other children. In the barn-like school built upon inequality and the oppression of a racist school board, the children would’ve never been given equal access to education and a guarantee to a better future.

These factors are the most important because they lead to original thought, enhanced and free expression of creativity, increased productivity and an overall higher quality of life.  

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