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January 10, 1999
Douglass & Stanton
Compare and contrast
‘What the Black Man Wants’ and ‘Speech to the First Women’s Rights Convention’ are two powerful speeches. They both rewrote the history books. They changed laws that were strong. They went against what was an unyielding government run by white men. I greatly admire these two speeches for that.
Fredrick Douglass was an extraordinarily strong man for standing up for what he thought was right. The tone of ‘What the Black Man Wants’ is not angry or annoyed, but demanding. Slavery lasted two-hundred forty-six years. Douglass delivered this speech in 1865, which was the year that the civil war ended, also freeing the slaves. Douglass believed that without the right to vote, he might as well be a slave. It may say that he is free in the constitution, but it doesn’t say he is free in society. They regard his liberty as a privilege not a right. Some people claimed that the black men should take one step at a time, slavery was just abolished, so they should wait a little bit to start pressing for suffrage. Douglass did not agree with these people. He thought that if it is their human right, then they should have it now. Some people asked, why would you want suffrage, many people got along without it, and women didn’t have it. Douglass answered these questions by saying basically two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because other people don’t have the freedom to vote, doesn’t mean that blacks should be deprived of their rights also. Douglass also said that it would educate his race. By not letting blacks vote, the white men are implying that blacks are not intelligent enough to make a public decision. And by implying this, the white men are proclaiming the black man’s inferiority to them. Douglass was not looking for sympathy, he was looking for simple justice. In Douglass’s metaphor about the apple, the tree represents society holding the apple (black man) up, where Douglass said to let them go and live their own lives. The only way for them to do this is to sometimes fall and fail, otherwise there is no point in being free.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was brave by speaking out against all men. She said that women’s gain of rights would not change anything. Men would not take over women’s jobs, and women would not take over men’s jobs. Women would not become manly, so there is nothing to be afraid of, if women gain the right to vote. Stanton was also sarcastic in her speech when she described men as the nobler sex. This helped keep my attention when I was reading, because it was somewhat humorous. Stanton wanted to be as free as man was free. Men had disgraceful laws over their wives that women wanted to abolish. For example, they had the right to imprison his wife. Stanton stressed that any man could vote, even the ignorant Irishman. It was their god given right, so why isn’t it women’s god given right also. Stanton then makes fun of the insufficient men that have the right to vote, but women don’t. Women should have the same rights as men. Stanton said that they had to change the way that women’s voices were ignored in the state, church, and home. She said that no nation could be great with the degradation of women. There is no hope for women if they are slaves. Stanton said that her speech and the women’s fight would not be popular, but they had to stick with it.
There are many similarities between Douglass’s and Stanton’s speeches. The main similarity is that they were fighting for the same thing, their suffrage and their freedom with the white man. They both eventually achieved their goals. The black men gained suffrage a lot earlier than women, but to this day, society respects women more than blacks. Therefore, it is better to be patient and succeed more, than rush and gain some. Douglass and Stanton are also similar in that they both stood up for what they thought was right and just.
These two speeches made a great impact on life today. It would be very different if women and
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Lecturers, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American Equal Rights Association, Seneca Falls Convention
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