Synopses & Reviews
A major history of Civil War America through the lens of its two towering figures: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
"My husband considered you a dear friend," Mary Todd Lincoln wrote to Frederick Douglass in the weeks after Lincoln's assassination. The frontier lawyer and the former slave, the cautious politician and the fiery reformer, the president and the most famous black man in America their lives traced different paths that finally met in the bloody landscape of secession, Civil War, and emancipation. Opponents at first, they gradually became allies, each influenced by and attracted to the other. Their three meetings in the White House signaled a profound shift in the direction of the Civil War, and in the fate of the United States.
In this first book to draw the two together, James Oakes has written a masterful narrative history. He brings these two iconic figures to life and sheds new light on the central issues of slavery, race, and equality in Civil War America.
"The perennial tension between principle and pragmatism in politics frames this engaging account of two Civil War Era icons. Historian Oakes (Slavery and Freedom) charts the course by which Douglass and Lincoln, initially far apart on the antislavery spectrum, gravitated toward each other. Lincoln began as a moderate who advocated banning slavery in the territories while tolerating it in the South, rejected social equality for blacks and wanted to send freedmen overseas and wound up abolishing slavery outright and increasingly supporting black voting rights. Conversely, the abolitionist firebrand Douglass moved from an impatient, self-marginalizing moral rectitude to a recognition of compromise, coalition building and incremental goals as necessary steps forward in a democracy. Douglass's views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln. Oakes lucidly explores how political realities and military necessity influenced Lincoln's tortuous path to emancipation, and asks whether his often bigoted pronouncements represented real conviction or strategic concessions to white racism. As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln's foot-dragging to revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A sharp analysis....A readable account of the intersection of Lincoln and Douglass's careers, but an even better demonstration of the interplay between the agendas of passionate, single-minded reformers...and the talented politicians who master the art of the possible." Kirkus Reviews
"At first glance, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass might seem to have been of one mind regarding slavery....However much they agreed about slavery, though, the two men differed considerably over how to end it. That quarrel animates James Oakes's riveting and original The Radical and the Republican." The Wall Street Journal
"[A]n eye-opening and absorbing account of their relationship....The Radical and the Republican
is ideological more often than anecdotal and is not a light read. But the book succeeds quite well at charting the ups and downs of a complex and seminal relationship between two great men, both dedicated to making America live up to its loftiest ideals." Chuck Leddy, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
A narrative history of the Civil War looks at the lives and careers of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two men who played iconic roles during the era and who had a profound impact on the Civil War, slavery and emancipation, and race and equality.
In this major history of Civil War America as seen through the lens of its two towering figures, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, Oakes presents a masterful narrative history that brings these two iconic figures to life and sheds new light on the central issues of slavery, race, and equality during the era.
About the Author
James Oakes, professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is the author of acclaimed works on slavery and the South. He lives in New York City.