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Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick…
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Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (udgave 2009)

af John Stauffer (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
236489,664 (3.95)8
Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were the preeminent self-made men of their time. In this dual biography, John Stauffer describes the transformations in the lives of these two giants during a major shift in cultural history, when men rejected the status quo and embraced new ideals of personal liberty. As Douglass and Lincoln reinvented themselves and ultimately became friends, they transformed America. At a time when most whites would not let a black man cross their threshold, Lincoln invited Douglass into the White House. Lincoln recognized that he needed Douglass to help him destroy the Confederacy and preserve the Union; Douglass realized that Lincoln's shrewd sense of public opinion would serve his own goal of freeing the nation's blacks. Their relationship shifted in response to the country's debate over slavery, abolition, and emancipation.--From publisher description.… (mere)
Medlem:Ariceu
Titel:Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln
Forfattere:John Stauffer (Forfatter)
Info:Twelve (2009), Edition: Illustrated, 448 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln af John Stauffer

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Viser 4 af 4
5 stars, it's a brilliant book ( )
  jms1813 | Mar 28, 2009 |
I saw this book originally on one of the lists of best books of 2008, and I heartily concur with that assessment. It is a dual biography of Frederick Douglass, the black slave who rose to be one of the greatest advocates of abolition, and of Abraham Lincoln.

The two men had backgrounds that were more similar than one would think. Both grew up poor, with almost no formal education. Douglass was in his early years rather fortunate for a slave, he grew up rather pampered (it was likely that he was his owner's son) and his first duties were as a house servant, the best condition for a slave. He was even taught a bit of reading and writing. Lincoln, while not a slave, was grindingly poor, and subject to his father's control until his 21st birthday, and felt trapped by being so. Both men loved reading passionately, and read similar works - the Bible, Shakespeare, and particular book of great speeches that included a dialog between master and slave. Both learned speechcraft from this book and became among the best orators of their day.

Both had to deal with a great deal of brutality. Lincoln, in the rough and tumble area he grew up in, had to fight to prove his manhood. Douglass was beaten severely to break his spirit.

There are many in the U.S. who like to underplay the role of slavery in the run-up to the Civil War. However, this book shows that it was the insolvable issue, a legacy that stemmed from the failure of the Founding Fathers to solve the problem. It had to be resolved eventually.

Abolitionists were fairly popular speakers in the North, and Douglass became their most popular. It spurs the imagination to think of the effect he must have had on his audiences... a black man who was obviously intelligent, a mature man, a thinker, a great orator, who could talk about slavery as one who endured it. How many of his hearers must have had their myths of white superiority at the least badly damaged by hearing Douglass...how many men have this kind of life-changing impact on so many?

Other events leading to the Civil War include the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott decision in the Supreme Court, both of which opened the possibility that slavery could be reimposed on states that had rejected it. In addition there were the Lincoln Douglas debates, John Brown's raid, the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin (by Harriet Beecher Stowe) which had a tremendous impact on Northern society. Then, finally, came the election of Abraham Lincoln on a platform of not expanding slavery, and the secession of the Southern States.

It is hard to recognize now that Lincoln was actually fairly conservative on the issue of slavery. He did not want it expanded, and wanted to put in place policies that would lead to its eventual demise everywhere. But his priorty in his presidency was restoring the Union, not abolishing slavery. For this reason Douglass was often disappointed in him, and a vocal critic. Yet the two men met three times and became friends. Douglass was enthralled that Lincoln treated him as an equal, and as a friend, and forever loved him for that.

Truly fascinating story that reminds me of why I love history. Stauffer is to be commended. ( )
  reannon | Jan 12, 2009 |
A serious reading of this volume reveals, much to Stauffer's regret, how little the Obama administration resembles either Lincoln or Douglas as advocates of American freedom, reform, and strength of character. This is a sobering book which demonstrates just how second-rate our current crop of leaders have become.

One of the most important issues to grasp is the anti-slavery direction of the Constitution (pp. 144-146, 194-6). On a superficial reading, for example, the 3/5 clause appears to make slaves less than human. However, the real import of the clause is to be a ticking time bomb against slavery which both Douglass and Lincoln grasped. The clause states when referring to slaves all other "persons." What it did is count them as 3/5 toward representation, which was a compromise between those who didn't want them represented at all and those, slave owners, who thought they should count fully. The Founders promoted the end of slavery by defining slaves as persons yet weakened the slave-holding Southern states by denying them more representatives in Congress based on population.

To wit, the Constitution states:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

It's 3/5 of the number of other persons that gets added to the number of free persons. It's not that slaves are 3/5 of a person.

Against the 1857 Dred Scott decision Lincoln opposed the Supreme Court for a higher, natural rights law: a point that Douglass held years before (194-6).
  gmicksmith | Jan 4, 2009 |
Good book about Douglas and Lincoln, and how their lives were similar to each other. The focus seemed to be a bit more on Douglass (which was good for me). Douglass led a fascinating life, and the book deals with much of it without becoming a biography. The info about Lincoln tended to deal with how Lincoln's life was similar to Douglass as well as some of his beliefs about slavery. Interestingly, the meetings between Douglass and Lincoln are just glossed over, when they could have been covered in more more detail. These meetings were given much more coverages in 'The Radical and the Republican' by Oakes, another good book about the two. Overall, the writing is good, and the focus is fairly strong. I deducted a bit for the weak coverage of the Douglass/Lincoln meetings, but if you want to know more about these two incredible personalities and why they came to think the way they do, this is a good book for that. ( )
  estamm | Jan 4, 2009 |
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I like to believe that for Lincoln,… it was a matter of maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas—that we must talk and reach for common understandings, precisely because all of us are imperfect and can never act with the certainty that God is on our side; and yet at times we must act nonetheless, as if we are certain, protected from error only by providence.
The best I can do in the face of our history is remind myself that it has not always been the pragmatist, the voice of reason, or the force of compromise, that has created the conditions for liberty. The hard, cold facts remind me that it was … men like Frederick Douglass who recognized that power would concede nothing without a fight.
— Barack Obama, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" (2008)
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Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were the preeminent self-made men of their time. In this dual biography, John Stauffer describes the transformations in the lives of these two giants during a major shift in cultural history, when men rejected the status quo and embraced new ideals of personal liberty. As Douglass and Lincoln reinvented themselves and ultimately became friends, they transformed America. At a time when most whites would not let a black man cross their threshold, Lincoln invited Douglass into the White House. Lincoln recognized that he needed Douglass to help him destroy the Confederacy and preserve the Union; Douglass realized that Lincoln's shrewd sense of public opinion would serve his own goal of freeing the nation's blacks. Their relationship shifted in response to the country's debate over slavery, abolition, and emancipation.--From publisher description.

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