Frederick Douglass

By David W. Blight,

Book cover of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Book description

**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**

"Extraordinary...a great American biography" (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A giant of the nineteenth century and the leader of the struggle to end slavery needs a giant book and Blight’s is the most penetrating and comprehensive biography we have of the person many consider the voice and soul of the abolitionist movement and the struggle to win the right guaranteed in the Constitution.

Douglass was, as the author says, “the most important African American of the nineteenth century and one of the most significant writers and orators in American history.”

His biography happens to parallel the American experience of a tumultuous time, from his birth as a slave in 1818 to his death as “The Sage of Anacostia” on his country estate in 1895.

To understand Frederick Douglass is to understand all that Americans went through during the American Civil War.

My daughter gave me this biography on Frederick Douglass, knowing I am partial to American history. While it’s a massive tome, there is much to share about this most famous Black man of the 19th century.  

Douglass was the most photographed person of the era. He was everywhere, involved in abolition and reconstruction. He travelled widely, always keeping an eye on the prize: the betterment of fellow Blacks.

I embraced the story; I felt involved in Douglass’ struggles from escaping slavery to familial issues. Blight captures the era and shares countless details which add to the charisma of this…

Some critics have dismissed Lincoln as a white supremacist, citing his words in 1858 about Black inferiority, and call his emancipation edict an act of simple pragmatism. This does not square with the rounded judgment of Frederick Douglass, the runaway slave, ardent campaigner for racial equality, and arguably the most influential African American of all time. David Blight’s definitive Pulitzer prize-winning study serves him with eloquent authority. He shows how the radical activist, after initially calling Lincoln a "heartless" pragmatist, grew to appreciate Lincoln’s qualities. The president treated "my friend Frederick Douglass" as an equal, asking him to organize Black…

Decades in the making, Blight’s epic 2018 Pulitzer prize-winning biography will be the standard-bearer for works on Douglass for at least the next generation or two. It is the ideal combination of high-calibre writing, rigorous research, and empathy for its subject.

From Laurence's list on the life of Frederick Douglass.

Since 1991, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute and Gettysburg College have annually awarded the Lincoln Prize to the best book on the sixteenth president or the Civil War era, and this biography of Lincoln’s frequent critic and sometimes supporter richly deserved the award. Because Douglass lived nearly eight decades, his eventful life has surely dissuaded potential biographers, with the last full life published in 1992.

Historians have instead focused on one period or aspect of his life, with Leigh Fought examining his relationships with women and Blight himself, in an earlier volume, chronicling Douglass’s activism during the Civil War years. At 764…

From Douglas' list on Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize winners.

Blight is one of our best Civil War-era historians and he is at the top of his game here. The book is wonderfully researched and well-told, especially the sections dealing with Douglass’s uneven relationship with Abraham Lincoln. Understanding Douglass’s point of view is key to a full understanding of what the war was about.

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