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David W. Blight

Forfatter af Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

19+ Works 3,385 Members 49 Reviews 3 Favorited

Om forfatteren

David W. Blight is Sterling Professor of History at Yale University and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. He is the author of annotated editions of two of Frederick Douglass's autobiographies, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick vis mere Douglass and My Bondage and My Freedom. He is also the author of A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation and the prize-winning Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, among other works. Visit David W. Blight at www.davidwblight.com. vis mindre
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Værker af David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018) — Forfatter — 1,036 eksemplarer
A People and a Nation: A History of the United States (1982) — Forfatter — 209 eksemplarer

Associated Works

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) — Redaktør, nogle udgaver8,960 eksemplarer
The Souls of Black Folk [Bedford Cultural Editions] (1997) — Redaktør — 139 eksemplarer
Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World (2008) — Bidragyder — 113 eksemplarer
The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents (2002) — Forord — 90 eksemplarer
Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965) — Introduktion, nogle udgaver67 eksemplarer
Muller v. Oregon: A Brief History with Documents (1996) — Forord — 59 eksemplarer
The Columbian Orator (1797) — Introduktion, nogle udgaver55 eksemplarer
Voter Suppression in U.S. Elections (2020) — Bidragyder — 22 eksemplarer

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Fredrick Douglass is a fascinating figure, but a heavier editorial hand and a culling of at least 150 pages would improve the quality of this work substantially. I have some guess that this biography is well-regarded not for its content but for its subject and the résumé of its author.

David Blight, Yale-educated and Yale-employed, often uses phrases such as “may have” or “perhaps thought” regarding his subject. Douglass’s initial meeting with his later wife Anna Murray is so littered with these suppositions it beggars belief that an experienced biographer would write such.

Another egregious passage concerns a woman with romantic interest in Douglass staying near their house. Blight admits we have no idea what Douglass’s wife Anna’s response to this was, and so turns to a modern poet. The next seven sentences concern this poet and conclude with “art provides the means to elusive truths, but not the truth itself”. This is true, but as much justification is provided for why this poetry is in a book of facts as there is for the basis of the poetry: none at all.

At this point my respect for Blight is so low I check how many pages remain in this ebook. I have only 150 left.

Another convention of Blight’s is a broad statement of fact as if it is generally accepted, but as the statement is often about the 19th century, I’m not aware of the context or historical circumstances. Presumably I’m reading this book to learn those. An example of this is his statement that Douglass devoted himself to the Republican Party postbellum, though it was in decline in the 1870s. What events mark its decline? Loss of the presidency? (In fact, the Republican Party held the presidency until the election of Cleveland in 1893.) Congressional infighting? Corruption and misguided policy? These last two seem to be the case, as Blight mentions them in passing, but not in direct relation to “decline”. Eventually these questions are answered, but this is biography, not a thriller.

Perhaps most troubling are the points at which Blight essentially dismisses Douglass’s writings about his own feelings. In his 1892 autobiography, Douglass states, essentially, that his life has ultimately been good and his friends have contributed more to his life than enemies took from him. Blight dismisses this out of hand, saying Douglass would rather publish positive sentiments than “bitter truths”. Is it inconceivable that Douglass actually believed this? We have no private writing to contradict his published word. For Blight to write to his readers that Douglass was wrong about his personal reflections is a disgusting act for a biographer. A few pages later, Douglass’s descriptions of visiting an old slave plantation leads him to muse that “war and slavery” were things of the past. Blight describes this as “odd”. Why Blight finds this odd is never greatly expounded on, beyond drawing a parallel between the civil war and the “memory war” of the historical events and the Lost Cause revision of the south. At this point I wonder if Blight understands metaphor and nuance.

Blight’s editorial voice carries an axe to grind in one hand. Why that is the case isn’t so obvious in the text, initially. At later points, however, Blight seeks to wield Douglass against the modern Republican Party. He also seems disappointed that Douglass never disavowed his Republican Party even as they withdrew from racial treatment as an issue. I find this disturbing. In many ways, modern politics are too separate from the past to draw clear parallels, and in other ways, to wield a historical figure as a weapon is to assume their beliefs wouldn’t change without the additional context of one hundred years. I say the same to modern Republicans seeking to use Douglass or Lincoln as a stamp of approval.

As a result, this biography often holds Douglass at arm’s length. It’s telling that the longest quotations in the book are remembrances of Douglass by other writers. Quotes from Douglass are often scattershot quotations of 3-5 words littered through a paragraph in an effort to convey the former slave’s ideas. Do I feel like I know the man Douglass now? Yes, but I wish I could shake the feeling that he has been filtered.
… (mere)
gideonslife | 19 andre anmeldelser | Jan 5, 2023 |
I decided to read “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass after visiting Drayton Plantation in Charleston, S.C. I was most amazed by the resilience of the slaves, the strategies many used to survive such horror. Douglass must have been a genius, writing his narrative in 1845, 20 years before The Emancipation. His writing is eloquent. At times, I was moved to tears and had to put the book down. His words painted a real picture of what enslavement was like. Overall, the most important and valuable features of this book to me are: what I learned about the nature of slavery’s emotional abuse and psychological control of humans, treated as animals and, ultimately, the emotional strength and determination of slaves which allowed many to survive and make us into the people we are today. So inspirational in helping me understand where I came from and who I am.… (mere)
joyfulmimi | 5 andre anmeldelser | Aug 25, 2022 |
Few things have defined America as much as slavery. In the wake of emancipation the story of the Underground Railroad has become a seemingly irresistible part of American historical consciousness. This stirring drama is one Americans have needed to tell and retell and pass on to their children. But just how much of the Underground Railroad is real, how much legend and mythology, how much invention? This collection of fifteen beautifully illustrated essays by outstanding historians sets out to answer this question and place it within the context of slavery, emancipation, and its aftermath.… (mere)
PendleHillLibrary | May 14, 2022 |
Who Shaped Your View of the American Civil War?

Even before the Civil War ended, people began forming their own memories about it, in particular about what caused it. Depending upon when and where you grew up in the U.S., it’s a good bet you may not share the same understanding of the cause. In fact, if you think about the Civil War at all, you probably focus on the battles, the generals, the valiantness of soldiers, and the like. You may not even use the term Civil War, but maybe War Between the States, or the War for Southern Independence, to name but a few. It’s worth pausing and asking yourself why many of us still to this day, more than 150 years after the guns silenced, carry around varying memories of among the most monumental periods in American History. Because, as David W. Blight, Yale prof and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center (for the study of slavery, resistance, and abolition) shows, a second struggle ensued. This involved words, societies, memorials, monuments, and a generalized racism that continues to this day. Memory, as Blight forcefully demonstrates, is quite malleable.

In brief summary, three strains of thought regarding the war developed in the years following its conclusion. These were emancipationists, white supremacists, and reconciliationists. For a time, the emancipationists prevailed, primarily during Reconstruction (voting rights, approximate equal treatment under the law, and the like). But nearly after the war’s end, whites (think the Klan, separation of races, distorted histories) began terrorizing freedmen, white leaders rebelled against Reconstruction (even today many recall it as harsh retribution), and writers started constructing a mythology that cast the Antebellum South and the war in a golden hue, which, among other things, portrayed slaves as loyal and faithful to their masters, as liking their condition, and most perniciously as simple minded and barbaric (if not taken in hand and guided by the white race). You can find and read works by Thomas Nelson Page, Joel Chandler Harris, Thomas Dixon, and Margaret Mitchell, all of whom’s titles are available on Amazon, to experience these first-hand.

In short, the South, with the acquiesce of reconcilationists, rewrote history and this rewrite pervaded even the North. Those interested in reconciliation and moving forward did so by ignoring the virulent racism in the South. Rather than a war to end slavery, the aftermath became something of a reversal to memorialize aspects of the Antebellum South, it became the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, and memorialization because the honoring of old traditions at graveyards, with marches, and plenty of speechifying honoring the dead, even if what was called honor came in the service of an evil cause.

How this came about makes for a fascinating historical tale told well and in detail by Blight. More, though, it serves as yet another illustration of how propagandizing can distort and even change the collective memory of events, because memory isn’t necessarily factual and it can be, and has been more than once, molded.
… (mere)
write-review | 12 andre anmeldelser | Nov 4, 2021 |



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