Brilliant! I didn’t really know all that much about Frederick Douglass before reading this masterful biography. I knew he was an escaped slave who became a speaker and writer of great renown who lived in Boston. He lived to a great old age. I think I knew he married a white woman in his later years.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom By David W. Blight 2018 / 862 pages Read by Prentice Onayemi – 36h 57m Rating: 9.75 biography Pulitzer winner – 2019
So wow – this book filled in a lot of blanks and added to my knowledge about other people of that era like Lincoln and John Brown. And the political bits, the parts about the divisions within the Republican Party at that time were new to me.
It’s written in traditional biographical style without much beyond a chronological telling needed because the story of Frederick Douglass is riveting in itself. That said, Blight is a master stylist and impeccable researcher.
The biography is detailed, it’s wonderfully well written, it and, as the New York Times said, “(it) treats Douglass as a man. Along with winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, it was one of their 10 Best Books of 2018 achieving a massive amount of critical acclaim.
Blight addresses the high points, the well known parts of Douglass’ life like his escape at age 20 from slavery with Anna helping him from that point. Then came his rise to prominence in writing and, a bit later, making his famous speeches. But Blight’s book also goes into his relationship with Lincoln who had the impossible job of maintaining a union of the entire United States, blacks, whites, abolitionists and slave holders. Lincoln was torn with his own ideas. And then there was the fiery abolitionist John Brown. Blight also has much to say about Douglass’ relationships with his wife Anna, a semi-literate black woman who stood by him from the age of and other women like the English Judith Griffiths and German Ottillee Assing. He and Anna had 5 children family difficulties as well as his glorious speechifying and passionate writings on his travels. Blight also covers Douglass’ less than candid autobiographies – three of them!
He lived to see the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age and on until 1895 when he died of a heart attack at age 77. There was lots happening during all those years and Douglass was a part of much of it.