This timely, powerful biography by a prize-winning author draws on new information about Frederick Douglass, a man who escaped slavery and rose to become one of history's greatest orators and advocates of freedom. A book to treasure and ponder over, with great relevance today. Recommended By Richard C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the 19th 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 man Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.
Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, often to large crowds, using his own story to condemn slavery. He broke with Garrison to become a political abolitionist, a Republican, and eventually a Lincoln supporter. By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Douglass became the most famed and widely traveled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. He sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights.
In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.
“A stunning achievement. Blight captures an icon in full humanity. From riveting drama in slavery and Civil War, his Douglass rises into clairvoyant genius on the blinkered centrality of race in our struggle for freedom.” Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of America in the King Years
“Extraordinary....Blight has certainly written, in the book’s texture and density and narrative flow — one violent and provocative incident arriving right after another — a great American biography." Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
"Absorbing and even moving...Mr. Blight displays his lifelong interest in Douglass on almost every page, and his own voice is active and eloquent throughout the narrative. It is a book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’s.....A brilliant book.” John Stauffer, The Wall Street Journal
“David Blight’s incandescent Frederick Douglass is a monumental achievement of biographical empathy, historical context, and grim comprehensiveness, a much-awaited masterpiece of a life that emblematized slavery as the problem of the 19th century, as was race that of Du Bois’s 20th, the legacy of both the problem of our 21st century.” David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
“Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom is a triumph — elegantly written, with much new material about one of the most famous and important men in modern history. David Blight has created a vibrant and convincing portrait of a towering figure who was also, Blight says, ‘thoroughly and beautifully human.’ A great American gets the stellar biography he deserves from one our country’s greatest historians.” Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
About the Author
David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He is the author or editor of a dozen books, including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; and annotated editions of Douglass’s first two autobiographies. He has worked on Douglass much of his professional life, and been awarded the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize, among others.