Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom

By David W. Blight. A Book Review

I listened to all 36 hours of the audio book and was not bored for a single second. As a reasonably well informed reader of history and admirer of Frederick Douglass, I found Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom immensely informative and enjoyable. The author, David W. Blight, is eloquent and measured in presenting the story. The narrator, Prentice Onayemi, is smooth and insightful in his reading.

Abolitionist

I knew about Frederick Douglass for many years but had never really comprehended the true nature of his contribution to the abolition of slavery. Nor was I aware of his vast popularity as an orator, a real live superstar of the 19th century, perhaps the best known man in the country. While I always strove to get behind the mainstream narrative of the civil war, which I understood to be tainted with racism from decades of Jim Crow laws and tolerance for injustice against black people, I never before read such a comprehensive account of the anti-slavery movement that Douglass spear headed. I found it remarkable that the militant voice of an escaped slave achieved great popularity in a vastly racist society. I marveled at his courage in confronting and even fist fighting hostile mobs all over the country during the pre war years.

Post Civil War

Then, once the war was over and slavery abolished, I was fascinated by the limbo Douglass endured trying to find a new purpose once his fight against slavery was victorious. It was painful to follow his life through the years when Jim Crow arose in the South and his Republican Party lost its way. Douglass fell into a limbo we see running throughout the 20th century. I experienced it directly in the mid 1960s when civil rights militancy gave way to pro war support for the war in Vietnam, when the loud cries for justice were drowned out by greed and the quest for empire.

Family

Anna Douglass

Anna Douglass

Frederick Douglass with his second wife, Helen.

Frederick Douglass with his second wife, Helen.

On the personal side, I found the story of Douglass’ family, his wife Anna, mother of his five children, and then his second wife Helen, to be a compelling story of transformation of life that could only have happened once slavery was abolished. For those of us who understand that the civil war was all about slavery and slavery alone, this book will provide a deep glimpse into a century of history that gave birth to the modern world we all live in today.

About Estuary Press: Estuary Press is the publisher of Nicaragua Way by Nina Serrano and Heart Suite, a trilogy of three books of poetry by Nina Serrano. It is also the home of the Harvey Richards Media Archive, a repository of photography and video documentaries of the social change and political movements during the 1960s and 1970s. Contact Paul Richards (510) 967 5577, paulrichards@estuarypress.com or visit estuarypress.com for more details.

MEDIA – For photos & interviews: Paul Richards (510) 967 5577; paulrichards@estuarypress.com

 

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