Graduation Year


Document Type

Senior Thesis


Bachelor of Arts

Primary Major

Political Science

Second Major


Thesis Advisor

Alison Howard, MA and Jordan Lieser, PhD


From leading the Abolitionist movement to holding a lecture tour abroad, Frederick Douglass is well known for championing racial justice and leaving a legacy of exposing the evils of slavery. Scholars have primarily focused on Douglass’ actions as an abolitionist but not on the evolution of his thinking about slavery. While Douglass’ actions, such as in the Abolitionist movement, are discussed in-depth amongst academic circles, there is oversight regarding looking at his arguments about slavery. Douglass’ rhetoric was impacted by his experiences traveling abroad when he gave lectures in the British Isles between 1845-1847. This thesis examines speeches given by Frederick Douglass between 1841 and 1894 illustrating the evolution of his slavery rhetoric. Using content analysis, 14 speeches are coded to understand how Douglass framed the issue of slavery across his lifetime. This thesis improves our understanding of Douglass as a person, an orator, and his views about the human condition. Furthermore, the findings demonstrate how Douglass’ slavery rhetoric changed before, during, and after his lecture tour in the British Isles. Before Douglass went abroad (1845) his speeches showed more religious framing, during his time in the British Isles (1845 - 1847) he used moral framing, and after 1847 he used political framing.