"What to the Slave..." Reading Comprehension Worksheet Answers

Critical Reading of a Frederick Douglass Speech

If you've come to this page before reading the passage "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" by Frederick Douglass, go back and read it in its entirety using this link, then complete the following reading comprehension questions. When you're finished, keep scrolling to check your answers.

Questions

Copy your answers to these questions in your notes, referencing the text as needed. Some answers you will be able to pull directly from the text and some you will have to think beyond the text to find. Remember to use context clues to determine what the text implies.

1. The crowd to whom Frederick Douglass was speaking would most likely describe his tone as:

  • A. endearing and motivational
  • B. passionately accusatory
  • C. justifiably angry
  • D. concerned and factual
  • E. docile but inspirational 

2. Which statement best summarizes the main idea of Frederick Douglass' speech?

  • A. Throughout the world, America shows the most revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy for its usage of bondage.
  • B. The Fourth of July is a day that reveals to the American enslaved person the injustice and cruelty of his or her lack of freedom.
  • C. Gross inequalities exist throughout the United States of America, and Independence Day serves to highlight them.
  • D. Enslaving people robs them of their essential humanity, which is a God-given right.
  • E. The Fourth of July should not be celebrated by some Americans if it cannot be celebrated by everyone.

3. What does Douglass state he does NOT need to prove to the audience?

  • A. That the popularity of enslavement would diminish with their help.
  • B. That enslaved people can do the same amount of work as free men.
  • C. That enslaved people are men.
  • D. That enslavement is divine.
  • E. That comparing enslaved people to animals is wrong.

4. Based on the passage, all of the following were reasons Douglass said he would not argue against the enslavement of African people EXCEPT: 

  • A. The time for such arguments has passed.
  • B. It would make him appear ridiculous.
  • C. It would insult the audience's understanding.
  • D. He has better employment for his time and strength.
  • E. He has too much pride to offer such things.

5. Douglass mentions that there are 72 crimes in Virginia that will subject a Black man to death while there are only two that will do the same for a white man in order to:

  • A. Prove that by the state's own laws, enslaved individuals should be considered people.
  • B. Display the gross inequities between free men and enslaved people.
  • C. Relay facts to the audience that they may not already know.
  • D. A and B only.
  • E. A, B, and C.

Answers

Use this answer key to see if you were correct. If you get a question wrong, try to determine which part of it you didn't understand. This practice will help you increase your own reading comprehension skills.

1. The crowd to whom Frederick Douglass was speaking would most likely describe his tone as:

  • A. endearing and motivational
  • B. passionately accusatory
  • C. justifiably angry
  • D. concerned and factual
  • E. docile but inspirational 

The correct choice is B. Look at the title. Remember that Frederick Douglass, a formerly enslaved person, was speaking to a crowd of mostly white, free people in New York in 1852. From the language he used, we know that his words could not be considered endearing, ruling out A, or docile, ruling out E. Choice D doesn't quite describe the tone of this speech either. Now that the choices are narrowed down to either B or C, consider which is most correct.

C is not most correct because of the word "justifiably." Though his anger might seem justifiable to you, there is no way of knowing whether his listeners felt the same way, which is what the question is asking. In fact, during this time period, you could argue that many would probably not. They would likely describe him as passionate and accusatory of them and of the United States in general, making choice B the best answer.

2. Which statement best summarizes the main idea of Frederick Douglass' speech?

  • A. Throughout the world, America shows the most revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy for its usage of bondage.
  • B. The Fourth of July is a day that reveals to the American enslaved person the injustice and cruelty of his or her lack of freedom.
  • C. Gross inequalities exist throughout the United States of America, and Independence Day serves to highlight them.
  • D. Enslaving people robs them of their essential humanity, which is a God-given right.
  • E. The Fourth of July should not be celebrated by some Americans if it cannot be celebrated by everyone.

The correct choice is B. Choice A is too narrow, as America's barbarism as it relates to the rest of the world is only really described in a couple of sentences in the text. Choice C is much too broad. "Gross inequalities" could describe inequalities between races, sexes, ages, religions, political viewpoints, etc. The main idea needs to be more specific to be correct.

D doesn't mention American independence day and choice E is not alluded to in the passage. B is the correct answer because it summarizes Douglass' point about the Fourth of July, answering the question he poses in the title of his speech.

3. What does Douglass state he does NOT need to prove to the audience?

  • A. That the popularity of enslavement would diminish with their help.
  • B. That enslaved people can do the same amount of work as free men.
  • C. That enslaved people are men.
  • D. That enslavement is divine.
  • E. That comparing enslaved people to animals is wrong.

The correct choice is C. This is a tricky question because Douglass asks a lot of questions and states he doesn't need to answer them but then answers them anyway. However, he never mentions choice A, so that can be ruled out. He also never states B, although he lists various jobs that enslaved people all do. He argues the opposite of choice D and although he mentions that animals are different from enslaved people, he never says that he doesn't need to prove that the comparison is incorrect as E would imply.

He does, however, say that he doesn't need to prove that enslaved people are men because laws have already proved it and nobody doubts it. Choice C is therefore the best answer because it is the only one clearly stated.

4. Based on the passage, all of the following were reasons Douglass said he would not argue against slavery EXCEPT: 

  • A. The time for such arguments has passed.
  • B. It would make him appear ridiculous.
  • C. It would insult the audience's understanding.
  • D. He has better employment for his time and strength.
  • E. He has too much pride to offer such things.

The correct choice is E. Sometimes, you'll encounter questions like this where the answer is something not found directly in the passage. Here, you only need to find the information from each choice and narrow the answer down to whatever you don't find. The only answer choice not stated in the passage directly is E—everything else is mentioned verbatim.

5. Douglass mentions that there are 72 crimes in Virginia that will subject a Black man to death while there are only two that will do the same for a white man in order to:

  • A. Prove that by the state's own laws, enslaved individuals should be considered people.
  • B. Display the gross inequities between free men and enslaved people.
  • C. Relay facts to the audience that they may not already know.
  • D. A and B only.
  • E. A, B, and C.

The correct choice is E. Douglass' usage of this fact serves multiple purposes. The main point of the paragraph in which the fact was expressed was that the law proves that an enslaved individual is a person, but Douglass included that statistic for other reasons too. He also uses it to enlighten the audience about a horrendous tidbit of little known Virginia law to not only display one of the countless gross inequities between free men and enslaved people but also to support his main point: the Fourth of July is not Independence Day for everyone.