Blasting Reproach and All-Pervading Light: Frederick Douglass’s Aspirational American Exceptionalism,
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/faculty_scholarship/351
Some scholars critique American exceptionalism as a proud, uncritical orientation. In this article, however, I argue that Frederick Douglass, an outspoken social critic, qualifies as an American exceptionalist thinker. I first identify and theorize two modes of exceptionalist rhetoric: accomplished exceptionalism, which is self-celebratory and largely uncritical, and aspirational exceptionalism, which is self-critical and reflective. I then provide a close reading of “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July” to show how Douglass employs aspirational rhetorical techniques. Finally, I discuss the benefits of reading Douglass as an exceptionalist thinker and suggest that his aspirational rhetoric activates reflective and progressive modes of American citizenship.
Original publication: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/709502.
The University of Chicago Press
© 2020 by The Jack Miller Center. All rights reserved.
9 American Political Thought
American Political Thought
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)