David Blight's New Bio of Frederick Douglass Named One of NY Times 10 Best Books of Year


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Pat Young

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From the Times:

A monumental work about a monumental figure. The charismatic Douglass was Abraham Lincoln’s conscience, so to speak, and Blight’s detailed, cinematic biography is the result of a lifetime of engagement with his subject. Douglass wrote three autobiographies himself, describing his rise from slavery to a role as one of the greatest figures of the 19th century, but Blight’s work is fuller than any of those, relating both the public and private life in a way that Douglass either could not or would not undertake. The result is a portrait that is likely to stand as the definitive account for years to come.
 

Drew

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The charismatic Douglass was Abraham Lincoln’s conscience,
So, we're taking the next, logical step. Lincoln was supposed to have fought, "to preserve the Union."

Now, we're told he did it for Frederick Douglass. This is complete hogwash, but I'm mot surprised.

The story is going to get twisted to the point where the Union fought to free the slaves (as long as they weren't allowed to live in any Unionist's neighborhood). I love "interpretation" and I'm sure Mr. Blight has done a grand job of it.

Thanks for posting.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Unclear why " Blight’s detailed, cinematic biography .... the result of a lifetime of engagement with his subject " would be itself twisted into something else. Times isn't given to gracing tales all about George Washington's cherry tree, bigfoot or that unicorn spotted in Central Park with accolades.

It's so odd. 4 million enslaved at the time of the war, around 480,000 free blacks ( Bowdoin ), but none of them seem to have impacted their own future in any way? If Blight has chopped down that particular cherry tree we owe him.

On my list, seems a terrific Christmas present to myself.
 

Pat Young

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Unclear why " Blight’s detailed, cinematic biography .... the result of a lifetime of engagement with his subject " would be itself twisted into something else. Times isn't given to gracing tales all about George Washington's cherry tree, bigfoot or that unicorn spotted in Central Park with accolades.

It's so odd. 4 million enslaved at the time of the war, around 480,000 free blacks ( Bowdoin ), but none of them seem to have impacted their own future in any way? If Blight has chopped down that particular cherry tree we owe him.

On my list, seems a terrific Christmas present to myself.
I read it last month with great enjoyment.
 

Drew

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wausaubob

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Thanks, Pat. I missed this thread.

It's one thing to celebrate Fredrick Douglass (and I am fine with that), but it's something else altogether to claim Abraham Lincoln was holding Douglass' hand throughout the events of mid 19th century. It's just not true, no matter how badly we moderns would like to believe it.
That looks like the reviewer's statement, and not Blight's.
 

wausaubob

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I agree with both you and @Pat Young. The Times said so. That doesn't make it true, however.
Lincoln never had much contact with African/Americans, so Douglass was a psychological problem for Lincoln, not his conscience.
Sherman had extensive contacts with African/Americans, almost always with slaves. He was racist, but also did not want the lives of untrained black soldiers wasted to gratify politicians. Sherman never had much contact with Douglass.
Grant had much more experienced with African/Americans. He saw them in Kentucky, in Missouri as an officer, in Missouri as a farmer and St. Louis as a real estate agent, and then throughout the war.
In the eastern theater, the USCT were recruited from both free blacks and freed slaves, and Grant used them heavily.
Douglass would not have challenged Grant's conceptions as much as he challenged Lincoln's ignorance, in my opinion.
 

Drew

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Lincoln never had much contact with African/Americans, so Douglass was a psychological problem for Lincoln, not his conscience.
Sherman had extensive contacts with African/Americans, almost always with slaves. He was racist, but also did not want the lives of untrained black soldiers wasted to gratify politicians. Sherman never had much contact with Douglass.
Grant had much more experienced with African/Americans. He saw them in Kentucky, in Missouri as an officer, in Missouri as a farmer and St. Louis as a real estate agent, and then throughout the war.
In the eastern theater, the USCT were recruited from both free blacks and freed slaves, and Grant used them heavily.
Douglass would not have challenged Grant's conceptions as much as he challenged Lincoln's ignorance, in my opinion.
I agree with most of this, WB, but for the bolded part. Yes, Lincoln had comparatively little experience with African Americans. I kind of think Frederick Douglass was a head-scratcher for him (who is this guy?).

Let's not forget that W.T. Sherman was Superintendent at Alexandria Seminary, Louisiana's state military academy before the War. Located in that state's Red River Valley, Sherman had plenty of experience with Southern planters and their slaves. Whether Sherman or Grant had more experience with the latter is anyone's guess but I'll call it a toss up.
 

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So, we're taking the next, logical step. Lincoln was supposed to have fought, "to preserve the Union."

Now, we're told he did it for Frederick Douglass. This is complete hogwash, but I'm mot surprised.

The story is going to get twisted to the point where the Union fought to free the slaves (as long as they weren't allowed to live in any Unionist's neighborhood). I love "interpretation" and I'm sure Mr. Blight has done a grand job of it.

Thanks for posting.
I guess I got the opposite impression from that statement. If anything I think suggesting Douglass was the conscience of Lincoln is suggesting that taking the effect of Blacks into account (at whatever point) was something Lincoln needed someone else like Douglass to do. One might even interpret such a statement as an insult towards Lincoln, that he needed such a strong Black abolitionists to influence him eventually.
 

Pat Young

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I guess I got the opposite impression from that statement. If anything I think suggesting Douglass was the conscience of Lincoln is suggesting that taking the effect of Blacks into account (at whatever point) was something Lincoln needed someone else like Douglass to do. One might even interpret such a statement as an insult towards Lincoln, that he needed such a strong Black abolitionists to influence him eventually.
Yes, Douglass's power was mostly persuasive.
 


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