SITTING IN ENGLISH CLASS, CARLOS STARES OUT THE WINDOW AT THE PARK ACROSS FROM THE SCHOOL.
The park used to be a fun place to play, but now it’s run down and the swings are broken. Carlos has even heard his parents complaining to the neighbors about it. He can see trash blowing across the grass and getting caught in the trees. Carlos struggles to turn his attention to his teacher, who seems to be reading a speech, “…[l]iberty and full equality for African Americans.” At first, Carlos wonders if he walked into the wrong classroom. Shouldn’t they be talking about slavery in history class rather than an English class? But Carlos’s teacher explains that this speech, made by abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1894, is an excellent example of a persuasive speech. Douglass carefully chose his words to have an impact.
She shares that Douglass, who was once enslaved, taught himself how to read and write. He traveled internationally, wrote, and spoke about his experiences during enslavement and the mistreatment he and other enslaved people suffered. Some historians estimate that more Americans, both Black and white, heard Douglass speak than any other figure in the 19th century. Douglass went on to become an extremely influential and popular public speaker. He was also the most photographed man of his time. His powerful words helped convince others that slavery was a horror that needed to end.
Carlos’s teacher says that students today still read and take inspiration from Douglass’s work. This gives Carlos an idea. Could he take some hints from Douglass and persuade others to fix up the park? After all, Douglass used language as a tool for activism. He wonders, “Can I learn how to persuade others just as powerfully as Frederick Douglass did?”
Writing or speaking to persuade is a valuable skill. How did Frederick Douglass use his words to persuade others to make a change? What can you learn from Douglass’s speech to help Carlos persuade others to fix up the park? Investigate the primary sources and make your case. Support your argument with the three different elements of writing: logos, ethos, and pathos.
Have your students take this challenge and make their case! To begin, send your students to this website with this challenge’s code.
Speakers choose words to appeal to their listeners using three different elements of writing: logos, ethos, and pathos.
Logos arguments appeal to the listener’s logic.
Ethos refers to the speaker’s status or authority to speak on the topic.
Pathos means appealing to the listener’s emotions.
Strong arguments combine all three.