My country! ‘Tis of Thee, Strong Hold of Slavery’

Genre analysis of the essay “’my country! ‘Tis of Thee, Strong Hold of Slavery’: The Musical Rhetoric of the American Antislavery Movement”.

Throughout the essay, the author discusses the rhetorical significance of music among the community of the American abolitionists. Karen Anton admits that music was often overlooked as a rhetorical feature of this controversial period. She further draws attention to its impact by examining a variety of rhetorical feature of bombastic songs, including hymns and parodies of familiar selections. Even though Karen Anton suggests that the spirit of music is combined with logic to form a powerful statement against slavery, she more specifically addresses pathos throughout her text. While antislavery music may stir the emotions or evoke a feeling of empathy, greater attention to the rational argument in the musical lyrics similarly demonstrates the rhetorical value of music during the abolitionist period.

In regards to this essay, the author precisely states that antislavery music possessed an emotional appeal for listeners, and this was an appropriate technique to support emancipation. Karen Anton references songs such as George W. Clarke’s “A Vision” and J. Simpson’s “Away to Canada” that demonstrate the ability of antislavery music to move the audience, precipitating feelings that generates a negative view toward slavery. However, the rational argument embedded within the poetic nature of abolitionists “lyrics deserves similar consideration.”

The injustice of slavery in a “land of liberty” illuminates the irrationality of African American subjugation. Theta appropriately rewrites the lyrics “My Country! ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty” to become “My Country! ’tis of thee, Stronghold of Slavery.” While white American citizens can enjoy their freedom, black individuals are being oppressed by slavery. This particularly resonates with Americans because of the country’s history with its oppressor. Great Britain. America’s experience with this oppressor influences the Declaration of Independence’s statements on equality and liberty. Thus, the inconsistency Theta illustrates between America’s claim to liberty, and African Americans’ bondage underscores the logical flaw in the institution of slavery. A rational analysis of these two lines is important because even if pro-slavery advocates are not moved emotionally by the horrors of slavery, they may be convinced intellectually by slavery’s challenge to America’s standard of equality

While Anton states that composers chose common melodies that made their audience feel comfortable, this was not always the case, suggesting that “their message was the important thing.” In the hymn above, rational deduction is essential to understanding the lyrics. The hymnist syllogistically argues that Christians are morally obligated to support their “brother.” Because the slave is their “brother,” slave owners, known for using the Bible to justify slavery, must instead acknowledge the equality of all men and guide slaves out of captivity. Nevertheless, while familiar songs created a sense of comfort and reinforced the emotional connection between the listener and the music. However, the enthymematic deduction enabled “a judicious description of the wrongs and sufferings of our slave population” to conjure “a deep sense of [each listener’s or reader’s] obligations to assist in undoing every burden, breaking every yoke, and setting every captive free.”

In conclusion, this essay from Spotlight shows the use of rhetoric in the analysis. The text has precisely been used to convince readers about the dangers of slavery. Slavery trades degrades human dignity and violates the fundamental rights and freedom of movement.


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