Document Type

Class Paper

Publication Date



In today's post-Civil Rights era, I believe that America has lost sight of what patriotism is and where it belongs. Patriotism, as it is understood today, has become mistakenly merged with nationalism. In the minds of the public and media, patriots are supposed to exhibit undying loyalty and dedication to their country. This sentiment is better aligned with nationalism, a concept that I would argue should ideally be distinct from patriotism. While the execution of the two concepts may ultimately seem similar from the outside, the foundation of each concept is different, leading to varied execution thereof. To regrasp true patriotism, the country should reflect on the patriots of the past that formed our freedoms today, one of which includes the famous black orator, Frederick Douglass. After examining the full scope of patriotism in his speech, "What to a Slave is the Fourth of July," it must be concluded that American patriotism's reinvention from the superficial, idolatrous patriotism of the white man into a morally apt, justice-seeking fervor that pays homage to the black patriot is imperative. Douglass's speech interestingly both utilizes and weaponizes patriotism to both further the abolitionist cause as well as redefine patriotism altogether from an ill-informed idolization to a tough and constrictive love. In addition to embracing the redefinition from Douglass's work, redefining patriotism in present-day America should also include incorporating black tradition that calls on America to reflect on the past, look forward to the future, and reject apathy of all kinds.


This paper was presented in partial fulfillment of American Literature I (ENGL 3103) taught by Professor Jennifer Pittman.