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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by…
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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

by David W. Blight

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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
First off, let me make the distinction between Frederick Douglass himself and this particular biography. Frederick Douglass was a fascinating person who was one of the most important voices in the abolitionist movement. He overcame a life of slavery and racism to become a brilliant speaker and highly intelligent man. As most humans are, he was a complex person. Not all of his political ideas mesh with my 21st century beliefs and it certainly seemed he put his national political role in front of his family life. But in such times, who can blame him?

That all being said, I'm not convinced that this particular biography did justice to Frederick Douglass. It is very thorough and uses a lot of Douglass's own words from his writings and speeches, which I liked. However, I never felt that Blight really captured who Douglass was or did a good job propelling the action forward. And there was plenty of action to draw from in the turbulent times that Douglass lived.

I've read quite a few of these 900+ page biographies and I tend to enjoy them, so I don't think it was just the wrong book or format for me. I love an exhaustive biography and have flown through enormous tomes by [[Ron Chernow]], [[Antonia Fraser]], [[David McCullough]], [[Robert K. Massie]], etc. This one just didn't seem up to the same level.

I feel some guilt for not recommending this because of the topic, but I really think it could have been better. I'm definitely in the minority. It gets great reviews from other readers and won the Pulitzer after all, but that's my humble opinion. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 29, 2019 |
Absolutely wonderful. I met his great great great great grandson at the American Writers Museum last summer, and wrote a blog post on Douglass this week. Self-educated, brilliant-- a true American hero who embodied moral and physical courage. Douglass took big risks throughout his life. I learned a great deal about this man and his family. I did not know that his son fought with the famed 54th Massachusetts in its assault on Fort Wagner. Blight's biography was well-researched and well-written. Douglass was his own man and had complicated relationships with LIncoln, Ida B. Wells and other abolitionists. Douglass believed in self-reliance and in a providential destiny for American and American exceptionalism-- so sadly, he would not have a place in today's Democratic party. Absolutely one of the best historical biographies I've read in years. ( )
  Mark.Kosminskas | Jul 27, 2019 |
The only reason this book gets four stars is that Douglass is boring. He does nothing but speak all over the planet on one topic and when Blight agrees with him (as do I) the author is stuck. Blight writes well, especially about the politics and economics of the time, but he can do nothing with this man.
Douglass is more in tune with todays thought.

blight agrees with him (as do i)

do

tThe only reason this book gets four stars (not five) is because Douglass is boring. ( )
  annbury | Apr 30, 2019 |
Finished this thanks to a second library checkout and some recent time on a plane. And it was absolutely worth those 912 pages for the comprehensive overview not only of Douglass's fascinating life but of the period and the very fraught courses of abolition and reconstruction (both of which are commonly defined to sound like contained processes, and both of which were anything but). Blight paints a thorough picture of the politics of the day—not simple, to say the least, but really worth taking the complex, deep dive. I'd venture to say that there's really no way to drive home the nationwide (and beyond) horror of slavery and the multiple ways it was embedded in the culture, economy, and political and personal life of the day without going into that kind of depth, and even if Blight waxed a little purple here and there, it was overall a very nuanced, empirical examination of a hugely knotty movement. I came out of this enormously well informed about so many facets of abolition—just the factions within the Abolitionist movement alone were eye-opening—and I highly recommend this. Plus for once I'm right on the literary prize trend—this just won a Pulitzer and a Bancroft (and a Christopher) prize.

I finally finished [Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom] thanks to a second library checkout and some recent time on a plane. And it was absolutely worth those 912 pages for the comprehensive overview not only of Douglass's fascinating life but of the period and the very fraught courses of abolition and reconstruction (both of which are commonly defined to sound like contained processes, and both of which were anything but). Blight paints a thorough picture of the politics of the day—not simple, to say the least, but really worth taking the complex, deep dive. I'd venture to say that there's really no way to drive home the nationwide (and beyond) horror of slavery and the multiple ways it was embedded in the culture, economy, and political and personal life of the day without going into that kind of depth, and even if Blight waxed a little purple here and there, it was overall a very nuanced, empirical examination of a hugely knotty movement. I came out of this enormously well informed about so many facets of abolition—just the factions within the Abolitionist movement alone were eye-opening—and I highly recommend this. Plus for once I'm right on the literary prize trend—this just won a Pulitzer and a Bancroft (and a Christopher) prize.

nb: I would very much like to see someone take on a biographical novel about his German friend/supporter/colleague/(OK, let's just say it) groupie Ottilie Assing—what a fabulous character, ripe for some good fictionalizing. ( )
2 vote lisapeet | Apr 17, 2019 |
A magnificent biography about a magnifient man! One of the many insights gleaned from Blight's deep portrait of Douglass is how amazingly prescient Douglass's understanding of racism in white America was in his time and, lamentedly, extending still to ours. One simply cannot properly understand America today without knowing about the history of slavery and the long tail of overt racism that lingers after slavery's demise. ( )
  stevesmits | Mar 20, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Blight, David W.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Onayemi, PrenticeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There is a prophet within us, forever whispering that behind the seen lies the immeasurable unseen.
 - Frederick Douglass, 1862
Dedication
To Walter O. Evans and Linda J. Evans and
to Jeffrey Brown Ferguson, 1964-2018
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(Introduction) In his speech at the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, September 24, 2016, President Barack Obama delivered what he termed a "clear-eyed view" of a tragic and triumphant history of black Americans in the United States.
Throughout the spring morning of April 14, 1876, a huge crowd, largely African American, began to assemble in the vicinity of Seventh and Kevin Streets in Washington, DC.
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"An acclaimed historian's definitive biography of the most important African-American figure of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass, who was to his century what Martin Luther King, Jr. was to the 20th century"--

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