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Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary…

Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader & a Reluctant…

by Paul Kendrick

Other authors: Stephen Kendrick

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"Every speech or conversation he {Douglass} had during the time revolved around one conviciton: "the ABOLITION OF SLAVERY IN EVERY PART OF OUR COUNTRY IS THE BEST AND ONLY WAY TO RESTORE OUR DISTRACTED AND WAR-SMITTEN NATION TO PERMANENT PEACE. "
Ask anybody who's spent at least five minutes in a high school American history class what the Civil War was about and they'll most likely answer you with one word: slavery. A few hundred years ago, though, when the war first started, warring factions on both side would tell you it was about anything but. Frederick Douglass, a freed slave and a powerful orator on the side of the abolitionist movement set out to convince the people that the Civil War needed to be an "aboliton war." He saw the Civil War as the greatest chance for the freedom of his people; it was a chance he could not allow to be squandered. Indeed, while both sides were steeped in heavy duty denial on the slavery issue, Douglass made the case that the root of the conflict was slavery itself and the only way to end it would be to end slavery permanently. Although Abraham Lincoln was against slavery personally, he felt that, as President, he had no Constitutional powers to end it. Douglass was vexed by the president who seemed neither strong enough to preserve the Union, nor moral enough to champion emancipation."

Clearly, Douglass, a man with a renowned reputation in abolitionist circles and with great support from England, was no fan of Abe. At least, not at first. Little by little, though, Douglass's attitude toward Lincoln did begin to change. He began to understand, especially after their first meeting in 1863, that Lincoln was not as slow moving and inept as he had thought, but simply very cautious. Explained Lincoln to Douglass, once he made his decision on a matter, he never went back on it. Lincoln had great respect for Douglass, and Douglass, just like most of the other "Rivals" of Lincoln, came around to respect the President as well, even if he did not do everything he wanted him to do. He never, though, withheld criticism of Lincoln and Lincoln never stopped valuing Douglass's opinion. Even though Lincoln and Douglass would meet face to face only three times, his influence on the country and on Lincoln cannot be denied.

The book itself is divided into the years of the Civil War so it provides a great time line of events in chronological order and how opinions shifted over time. There is a chapter or two devoted to the Massachusetts 54th, one of the first African-American regiments allowed to actually fight in the Civil War which I found very interesting. For me, though, I think the greatest thing the book did was show how incredibly stressful this time was for Douglass. The frustration he felt was palpable but his mission was too great for him to rest.

"In pivotal speeches, both Lincoln and Douglass grasped that powers beyond human comprehension were somehow guiding this war's end. Each man knew the power of their individual purposes, but humbly accepted that they were to be pieces contributing to a larger course determining the destiny of their country."

Frederick Douglass has always been somebody I wanted to know more about and this book was a nice little bit of history and showed the powerful connection between two great leaders of the time. Douglass and Lincoln focuses mainly on how these two men's destinies collided. IMO, the brilliance of Douglass was that he was very dogmatic in his thinking and the brilliance of Lincoln was that he wasn't.

I also have to admit admiring Frederick Douglass's undeniable bravery an audacity. After escaping from his owner an writing his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Douglass "... almost taunted his former owner Thomas Auld to recapture him by not only revealing the name his owner had known him by, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, but by actually mailing the slaveholder a copy of the book. ..." ( )
7 vote avidmom | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Paul Kendrickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kendrick, Stephensecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802715230, Hardcover)

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had only three meetings, but their exchanges profoundly influenced the course of slavery and the outcome of the Civil War.
Although Abraham Lincoln deeply opposed the institution of slavery, he saw the Civil War at its onset as being primarily about preserving the Union. Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, by contrast saw the War's mission to be the total and permanent abolition of slavery. And yet, these giants of the nineteenth century, despite their different outlooks, found common ground, in large part through their three historic meetings.
Lincoln first invited Douglass to the White House in August 1862. Well-known for his speeches and his internationally read abolitionist newspaper, Douglass laid out for the president his concerns about how the Union army was discriminating against black soldiers. Douglass, often critical of the president in his speeches and articles, was impressed by Lincoln's response. The following summer when the war was going poorly, the president summoned Douglass to the White House. Fearing that he might not be reelected, Lincoln showed Douglass a letter he had prepared stating his openness to negotiating a settlement to end the Civil War--and leave slavery intact in the South. Douglass strongly advised Lincoln against making the letter public. Lincoln never did; Atlanta fell and he was reelected. Their final meeting was at the White House reception following Lincoln's second inaugural address, where Lincoln told Douglass there was no man in the country whose opinion he valued more and Douglass called the president's inaugural address "sacred." 
In elegant prose and with unusual insights, Paul and Stephen Kendrick chronicle the parallel lives of Douglass and Lincoln as a means of presenting a fresh, unique picture of two men who, in their differences, eventually challenged each other to greatness and altered the course of the nation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:29 -0400)

Describes how Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass set the groundwork in three historic meetings to abolish slavery in the United States, despite their differing perspectives on the war and the institution of slavery.

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