It’s one of the most radical and prophetic speeches in American history. And hardly anyone knows about it. That’s the headline of an online CNN article by John Blake.
“CNN — In mid-19th-century America, when public speaking was a form of mass entertainment, Frederick Douglass was a rock star.
Standing-room-only crowds greeted him in the US and in Europe. People wept as he recounted the horrors of slavery or erupted in laughter as he mimicked his former slave master. White spectators openly gushed about Douglass’ “muscular, yet lithe and graceful” 6-foot, 200-pound frame, his “full and rich” baritone, and compared him to an “African prince.”
When people talk today about Douglass’ speaking prowess, they often cite his defiant “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” address. But he gave another speech that deserves wider recognition because Douglass spoke with uncanny precision about the kind of debates we’re having now about race, immigration, and what makes America exceptional.
The speech is called “Composite Nation” and in it Douglass tackles a question that lurks behind many of the current political debates in the US: Is the country better off having a multitude of races, ethnic groups and religious beliefs? Or would it, and other nations, fare better with a homogeneous population where most people look alike and share the same religious beliefs?”
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