Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

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A NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, and TIME TOP 10 BOOK OF THE YEAR

The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth 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 travelled 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.
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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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Oct 16, 2018
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Pages
912
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ISBN
9781416593881
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / General
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / United States / 19th Century
Social Science / Slavery
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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"I am scared most to death every battle we have, but I don't think you need be afraid of my sneaking away unhurt." Thus wrote Adjutant Charles Harvey Brewster of the 10th Massachusetts to his sister Martha in 1864, in one of over 200 letters he would pen during his four years of service. Born and raised in Northampton, Massachusetts, Brewster was a twenty-seven-year-old store clerk when he enlisted in Company C of the 10th Massachusetts Volunteers in April 1861. During the next three and a half years he fought in many of the major battles of the Virginia campaigns--Fair Oaks, the Seven Days, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, the "Bloody Angle" at Spotsylvania--rising through the ranks to become second lieutenant and later adjutant of his regiment. His letters, most of which were written to his mother and two sisters, record not only the horrors he witnessed on the battlefield, but also his inner struggle with his own values, convictions, and sense of manhood. In a thoughtful and illuminating introductory essay, David W. Blight explores the evolution of Brewster's understanding of the terrible conflict in which he was engaged. Blight shows how Brewster's attitudes toward race and slavery gradually changed, in part as a result of his contact with escaped slaves and his experience recruiting black troops. He also examines the shift in Brewster's conception of courage, as the realities of war collided with the romantic ideals he had previously embraced. This recently discovered and exceptionally literate collection of 137 letters chronicles the experiences of an ordinary Union soldier caught up in extraordinary events. At times naive and sentimental, at times mature and realistic, Brewster's correspondence not only provides remarkable insight into the meaning of the Civil War for the average Yankee, but also testifies to the persistent power of war to attract and repel the human imagination.
New York Times Bestseller

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“A profound impact on Hurston’s literary legacy.”—New York Times

“One of the greatest writers of our time.”—Toni Morrison

“Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.”—Alice Walker

A major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.

In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilda, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War.

Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.

The newly discovered slave narratives of John Washington and Wallace Turnage—and their harrowing and empowering journey to emancipation.
 
Slave narratives, among the most powerful records of our past, are extremely rare, with only fifty-five surviving post-Civil War. This book is a major new addition to this imperative part of American history—the firsthand accounts of two slaves, John Washington and Wallace Turnage, who through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, reached the protection of the occupying Union troops and found emancipation.
 
In A Slave No More, David W. Blight enriches the authentic narrative texts of these two young men using a wealth of genealogical information, handed down through family and friends. Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their struggle to stable lives among the black working class in the north, where they reunited their families.
 
In the previously unpublished manuscripts of Turnage and Washington, we find history at its most intimate, portals that offer a startling new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to liberty. Here are the untold stories of two extraordinary men whose stories, once thought lost, now take their place at the heart of the American experience—as Blight rightfully calls them, “heroes of a war within the war.”
 
“These powerful memoirs reveal poignant, heroic, painful and inspiring lives.”—Publishers Weekly
 
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