Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom As A Young Man, Frederick Douglass Escaped From Slavery In Balti, 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 His Very Existence Gave The Lie To Slave Owners With Dignity And Great Intelligence He Bore Witness To The Brutality Of SlaveryInitially Mentored By William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass Spoke Widely, Using His Own Story To Condemn Slavery By The Civil War, Douglass Had Become The Most Famed And Widely Travelled Orator In The Nation In His Unique And Eloquent Voice, Written And Spoken, Douglass Was A Fierce Critic Of The United States As Well As A Radical Patriot After The War He Sometimes Argued Politically With Younger African Americans, But He Never Forsook Either The Republican Party Or The Cause Of Black Civil And Political RightsIn This 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

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

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  • Hardcover
  • 912 pages
  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
  • David W. Blight
  • English
  • 24 April 2019
  • 9781416590316

10 thoughts on “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

  1. says:

    This book is beautiful One description called it cinematic and I think that s pretty accurate You feel the sense of Douglass and the beautiful prose really captures his words and the time It s annoying that people call him an imperfect man I mean, who isn t an imperfect person This book certainly covers the warts and all What s amazing about Douglass is that he never wavered He never softened He was strident until the end After talking against slavery, he moved on to lynching and then Jim Crow He wasn t soft like Booker T Washington He wasn t afraid to call out everybody Susan B Anothony, Lincoln, everybody And he eviscerated the Southern Democrats He was also incredibly prescient in what would happen in the south it got worse He was not predjudiced against immigrants and he fought for womens suffrage even when the suffragette s showed their racism and their claws The book is long and not all parts of it are necessary, but it s beautiful

  2. says:

    Yes, I know this won a Pulitzer and I m only a reader reviewer, but I struggled with this Maybe it was a Grant hangover, but that biography from Chernow I rated five stars This was well researched, numerous sources listed, but there were so many facts, words that evokes no emotion in me I finished the book knowing who Douglass was and what he accomplished, but never felt I knew the man I also dislike when a author guesses what a person would do in a given situation Words like possibly or maybe Anyway, yes again with the comparison but Grant was over a thousand pages and I could have kept reading This, while I appreciate the work that went into it, was relieved when I finished.

  3. says:

    Men talk of the Negro problem There is no Negro problem The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their Constitution Frederick Douglass There is no man in the country whose opinion I value than yours Abraham Lincoln to DouglassDavid Blight s biography of Frederick Douglass was great In it Blight effectively shows that Douglass was a prophet, who used rhetoric couched in the Old Testament, for the abolition of slavery, voting rights for blacks, women s suffrage, and other civil rights issues But this is not a complete hagiography, Blight gives a balanced look on his subject He is critical of him when Douglass made racist and misogynistic statements against Native Americans and women, respectively even though he was highly depended upon women throughout his life What impressed me the most about his story is that how later on in life he motivated and encouraged a new generation of leaders to become active, leaders such as Ida B Wells, Booker T Washington, W.E.B DuBois, and Paul Laurence Dunbar Finally, Blight does a great job of using Douglass s words from his speeches, letters, and other writings to share his thoughts on the issues of the 19th Century Douglass s words still ring true in the 21st Century.

  4. says:

    Years ago I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and was kind of blown away, not only because it was such a powerful book, but also because it seemed so beautifully written Unfortunately I ve long forgot any aspect other than my impression and few factual details But that impression stuck with me Not everyone was writing beautiful autobiographies in 1845, and no one had his story line The memory made me quite interested when this book came out.Frederick Douglass was a fascinating figure and lived a long constantly interesting life And in these 900 pages, David Blights walks us, slowly, through the full trajectory of it, from childhood as a house slave, the disciplinary actions he was subjected to, his young adult life as a slave and dock worker with income, when he became a self taught intellectual, to his escape, emergence within the abolitionist movement as a special and remarkably erudite speaker And this is just the beginning Phew Douglass would go on to defy the peaceable abolitionist movements led by William Lloyd Garrison , stake out his own name, and migrate towards promoting violence, meeting a few times with John Brown He would rejoice in the American Civil War, where he recruited heavily for black soldiers to enlist, and pushed his sons to joinbut did not sign up himself His relationship with Abraham Lincoln was one of my main interests and it was way complicated than I realizedand Lincoln was a bit racist than I realized But then the war ended and so did slaverySo, what s an abolitionist to do once his mission seems accomplishedand he makes his living giving speeches This is one of the odd aspects of Douglass, he was just a normal person trying to enjoy a normal lifekind of He was human anyway, and flawed Tightly knit with his family, but also keeping at least one mistress He was at this point a famous speaker and drew in large crowds wherever he spoke But, as that was his main source of income, and he had to constantly travel around country and speak, without his core message.With our vision in hindsight, it s easy to track the major issues of the day Jim Crow laws were expanding, Jim Crow life was north and south But, worse in the south where the racism was violent, repressive, with newly freed blacks suffering massacres and lynchings And we know today the cumulative impact of this But Douglass was full of hope after the Civil War He expected some trials and so he could only preach for black Americans to go make a living It was a long time, and years of speeches, before it began to click with Douglass how serious these problems were Lynchings peaked in the 1890 s, after reconstruction efforts faded, and for the elder Douglass the shoe eventually dropped, but the vigor he put into the anti slavery movement was no longer all there This is a long book The opening was fascinating and Blight s style is elegant, but tires after a while, at least on audio And so the book tends to fade in the less interesting parts, but they don t really last long There always another surprise around the corner, another chance meeting, new role, or family issue or dramatic changes to what was happening, what he was experiencing and what he was saying about it Really, a fascinating life that I m grateful to know it in detail from a solid and impressive effort from Blight Recommended to those interested.Douglass in his 20 s, in the 1840 s and at age 58 in 1876 31 Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom by David W Blightreader Prentice Onayemipublished 2018format 36 57 audible audiobook 912 pages in hardcover acquired May 3 listened May 4 Jul 5rating 4

  5. says:

    Stupendous biography by David Blight Douglass is among the greatest of Americans and his life work is as relevant today as back then A long read but worth the time and knowledge gained.

  6. says:

    2.5 stars, rounded up Thanks go to Net Galley and Simon and Schuster for the DRC, which I received free in exchange for this honest review Douglass is a key figure in American history, and Blight has made his career largely through his expertise on Douglass s life I expected to be impressed here, and indeed, the endnotes are meticulous and I would be amazed if there was a single error anywhere in this work But aspects of the biography rub me the wrong way, and ultimately, I realized that the best way around this is to go back and read Douglass s own autobiographies again Whether we read what Douglass tells us, or what Blight or any credible biographer has to say, there are two impediments that stop me short, and because I have never been required to start at the beginning and end at the end to complete a scholastic or professional assignment, I tend to read the beginning recoil abandon and then return in an undisciplined, skipping around manner that is uncharacteristic of my usual methods First we have the Christian aspect Douglass was tremendously devout, and during his time it was much common to discuss religion publicly and even in daily conversations, sometimes at length It repels me So that s my first problem It s not Blight s problem, but it s one I have to deal with The second problem again, not Blight s, and it s inherent in reading about Douglass is that slavery was horrible Douglass actually had a slightly better life than most of his peers, gaining an education and living in the master s house, but it was nevertheless traumatic It is unavoidable to see what he endured and not reflect on exactly how hellish life was for the four million that endured life in this dehumanizing, degrading system After I read a certain amount of it, I feel as if I need to take a long shower to wash away the stain As for Blight s book, there are some good moments here, and I learned some things Who helped Douglass on his road to freedom Free Black people did Who knew that there were vastly free Black folks in Balti, Maryland than there were slaves The textbooks and other materials used to teach adolescents about slavery and the American Civil War overemphasize, to a degree amounting to deception, the participation of kindly white people, largely Quakers, and provide only a fleeting glimpse of the occasional African American But I find that the eloquent passages that I highlight as I read this are not Blight s words, but quotations from Douglass himself Meanwhile, the obstacles to appreciating this book are consistent and irritating Blight makes much of inconsistencies in Douglass s three autobiographies, and when he refers to the differences there is a superior, smirking quality to his prose that doesn t sit well I wouldn t like it coming from any writer, but when the writer is a Caucasian, it adds an extra layer of insult No matter how long Blight publishes, no matter his standing in the Ivy League, he will never be fit to polish Douglass s boots If he once knew it, I suspect he has forgotten it So that s a problem, and it s hard to read around it.The other issue, a common one, is the tendency to guess at what is not known This makes me crazy The narrative will flow along in a readable, linear fashion, and then I start seeing the speculation, which is barely visible Might have Must have Likely It makes me want to scream If you don t know, Professor Blight, either don t put it in, or address the unknown in a separate paragraph explicitly addressing the possibilities Weed out the unimportant guesses and deal with the critical ones head on When these inferences are salted randomly into the text, we come away with tangled notions Apart from the key events in his life, which of the finer details were fact, and which were surmise Excuse me I need to find a nice brick wall so I can slam my forehead against it So there it is For all I know, Blight may gain half a dozen prestigious awards from this work it wouldn t be the first time a book I ve complained about went on to garner fame and glory But I call them like I see them, and what I see is that it s a better plan to read what Douglass says about himself, even though Blight appears to consider himself a reliable resource than his subject If you want this thing, you can have it October 2, 2018.

  7. says:

    Disclaimer ARC via Netgalley We like, want, our heroes to be uncompleted, to always be heroic and constant while in the spotlight, and to leave that spotlight before they change politics or ideals We want to remember Lincoln as the great emancipator not as the man who at one point wanted all freed slaves to return to Africa, a place they had never seen That ruins the image of martyr Lincoln We have the same feeling of many of our heroes, including Frederick Douglass Who despite what some people think is, in fact, dead Perhaps the memory of Douglass is doing great things in a symbolical sense, but the actual man is long dust For most people, Douglass is the man who escaped slavery and publicly spoke out against it Some people even confuse him with Henry Box Brown Many students read Douglass either his Autobiography, or perhaps commonly, the selection detailing his learning to read The drawback to the commonly used selection is that it is many times the student s only reading of Douglass, who sometimes some students think is a woman who is having sex with her mistress People today have heard of Douglass, but they don t know of Frederick Douglass David W Blight corrects that in his massive, though it does not read that way, new biography of Douglass Perhaps the hardest part of any Douglass biography is the reconstruction of his early life This isn t because of a lack of memoirs, but a surfeit of them, including subtle but important differences Did he ask to be taught or did Sophia Auld teach him because of her own idea A combination of both perhaps Blight s reconstructing of Douglass s early life makes it clear when there is a question about what happened, where Douglass himself differs or where scholars raise questions He does not choose sides he deals with facts and context A refreshing thing It is also something that he uses when dealing with Douglass s relationship to his first wife Anna Murray, a free black woman who played a central role in Douglass s escaping slavery Murray was illiterate, not stupid, but illiterate as common for many people than She and Douglass married soon after his escape, and they stayed married until her death She birthed his children, she gave him a home to return to Sadly, we do not know what she thought about her husband, about his relationship with the white women who would stay at her house, or about his feelings towards her for she is left out of his writing much of interior family life seems to be Blight, it seems, is slightly frustrated by this mystery of Anna Murray, and in the beginning, it almost seems like he is being, not condescending or dismissive, but almost shrugging off, not an accurate description but close As the biography progress, however, you become grateful and happy that Blight does not presume to know what Anna Murray would think He does suggest authors that try to channel her, but Blight keeps her presence as a real woman, almost shaking his head at Douglass s silence It helps that he keeps Douglass s second wife, Helen Pitts, off page for much of the time as well Blight s depiction of Douglass is within the context of his time and dealing with those who see contradictions and problems in who Douglass was such as his expansionist tendencies, his view on Native Americans Blight presents an imperfect human, as all humans are, but presents him with understanding and a feeling of fascination that are easily transmitted to the reader.

  8. says:

    Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom by David Blight was a beautiful and meticulously researched biography of one of history s giants of the nineteenth century From his humble beginnings as a slave in the south, he ultimately escaped slavery as a young man in Balti, Maryland Frederick Douglass worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery and reconstruction after the Civil War He later fought just as relentlessly for the suffrage movement As a young child he had been taught to read by one of the slave owners mistresses and quickly learned the power of the spoken and written word as he became, not only one of our greatest orators, but also a very respected and prolific writer This biography relates the complexities of his two marriages and very large extended family This stunning book is brimming with beautiful prose throughout as Douglass continues to fight for civil rights and justice at a very critical time in our national history It was a very uplifting book Above all, Douglass is remembered most for telling his personal story the slave who willed his own freedom, mastered the master s language, saw to the core of the meaning of slavery, both for individuals and for the nation, and then captured the multiple meanings of freedom as idea and reality, of mind and body as perhaps no one else ever has in America Powerful oratory, he learned, could scatter the clouds of ignorance and error from the atmosphere of reason irradiate the benighted mind with the cheering beams of truth My joys have far exceeded my sorrows and my friends have brought me far than my enemies have taken from me Frederick Douglass, 1881

  9. says:

    Monumental biography of one of 19th Century America s most remarkable men Frederick Douglass, who went in a few decades from runaway slave to abolitionist figure and writer to presidential adviser, political rabble rouser and living legend Douglass hasn t received a full biography in decades not since a tiresome psychobiography by William McFeely so I was thrilled about this, especially knowing Blight s other work It certainly didn t disappoint, though I ll caution that Blight s approach is a little idiosyncratic While the book does follow a roughly chronological narrative, he does zero in on specific writings and speeches of Douglass s, using them to frame his personal development, his reaction to specific events and how his inspiring words and human actions either complemented or diverged from each other I found this particularly interesting the chapter on John Brown, showing how Douglass, the apostle of violent resistance to slavery, refused an opportunity to put words into action though, in fairness, he may well have been put off by the quioxtic nature of Brown s enterprise Blight also explores Douglass s fractious relations with abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, politicians like Lincoln and Grant and younger black leaders who viewed the older Douglass as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party than a devoted civil rights leader his efforts to tangle post emancipation with new issues racial equality, women s suffrage and lynching , his fame and fractious personal life from a menage a trois with his first wife and a German admirer to a dastardly son in law who repeatedly tried blackmailing, then destroying Douglass At worst, Blight can loose track of the thread in his digressions, or engage in odd speculation particularly when dealing with Douglass s first wife, who left little record making it hard to reconstruct her thoughts and actions On the whole though, it s as insightful, thorough and engaging a documentary as a towering figure like Douglass deserves.

  10. says:

    I m going to be up front and say that this is a very detailed and well done biography of Douglass, to the point where if you are not extremely interested in his life, or writing some sort of extensive paper on Douglass, DO NOT READ THIS It s long Like technically 900 pages long, but with the occasional picture and the notes sources in the last section, it is closer to just over 700 pages I would like to say this is written like a narrative, but while it s mostly in chronological order, a lot of the material directly quotes from Douglass works letters speeches Almost excessively Which really took me out of the experience, since the tone and wordage of Blight did not always flow with the quote form Douglass There are also a few sections during Douglass life with less information available, so Blight uses what he can to piece together what he thinks happened Surprisingly, while the book is obviously focused on Douglass, the topic of his marriage and kids are glanced over, at best There are entire chapters dedicated to women out side of his marriages, but just a couple sentences a chapter if at all about his wives and kids Honestly, I would not recommend this book to a casual reader because it is a lot of work to get through Unless you are really into biographies or need to write a research paper on Douglass, I would pass on this book.

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