Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship

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Overview

From the author of Lincoln: A Photobiography, comes a clear-sighted, carefully researched account of two surprisingly parallel lives and how they intersected at a critical moment in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were both selftaught, both great readers and believers in the importance of literacy, both men born poor who by their own efforts reached positions of power and prominence—Lincoln as president of the United States and Douglass as the most famous and influential African American of ...

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Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship

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Overview

From the author of Lincoln: A Photobiography, comes a clear-sighted, carefully researched account of two surprisingly parallel lives and how they intersected at a critical moment in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were both selftaught, both great readers and believers in the importance of literacy, both men born poor who by their own efforts reached positions of power and prominence—Lincoln as president of the United States and Douglass as the most famous and influential African American of his time. Though their meetings were few and brief, their exchange of ideas helped to end the Civil War, reunite the nation, and abolish slavery. Bibliography, source notes, index.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Freedman revisits the subject of his Newbery-winning Lincoln: A Photobiography (1987), but this time the 16th president shares billing with his friend and ally, abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The story opens with Douglass anxiously waiting to meet Lincoln for the first time to air grievances about the treatment of African-American soldiers during the Civil War. “At forty-five... he was a commanding figure, taller than most men, with a powerful athlete’s build, graying hair, penetrating brown eyes and a carefully trimmed beard.” Subsequent chapters detail the leaders’ often parallel biographies. Both were self-made and shared a passion for reading, rising from poverty to prominence. In clear, accessible storytelling, Freedman brings the book back full circle to the pair’s first meeting. Reprints of b&w photographs, engravings, political cartoons, and posters appear throughout (the most graphic of which depicts the hanging of a captured African-American soldier). Appendices, source notes, and a bibliography conclude what is not only the story of two powerful men who shaped the course of the United States, but also a brief history of the war that raged while they forged a fast but deep friendship. Ages 9–12. (June) ¦
From the Publisher
"Freedman writes with clarity, intelligence, and a fine sense of detail...a well-researched, wonderfully readable book."—Booklist, starred review

"A lucid and fascinating narrative that never sacrifices depth and intellectual rigor...A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting."—Kirkus, starred review

"True to form, Freedman relies heavily on period illustrations and primary and secondary sources, breathing life into both men through a generous assortment of their own words."—Horn Book

"This book would be an asset for any classroom because it shows how two men set lasting examples of equality, integrity, and selflessness."—VOYA, 5Q 4P M J

"A first-rate volume for classroom study and general reading."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Clear, accessible storytelling."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Freedman does not deviate an inch from his customary knack of selecting the precise details an adolescent reader will require to sort through complex issues and often conflicted personalities."—Bulletin

VOYA - Courtney M. Krieger
Chronicling the lives of two of the most prominent historical figures of all time, award-winning author Russell Freedman describes the individual struggles, strengths, and mutual respect that Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass shared as they sought to promote equality within a divided nation. The book opens with a detailed description of the morning of August 10, 1863, when Frederick Douglass arrives at the White House to "lay the complaints of my people before President Lincoln" (p. 2). As he, the only black man, waits in a crowded waiting area, unsure if he will even get a turn to speak with the president, the following chapters flash back between the two men's lives to show that they both were born in poverty, both faced insurmountable struggles to get to their respective places of power, and both believed that no one had a right to own another. Throughout the book, the author weaves historical information, documented dialogue, and detailed descriptions to humanize many historical figures (i.e. Jefferson Davis, Stephen Douglas, and John Brown) made famous by the Civil War. By conducting painstaking research, Freedman provides the reader with authentic photographs and little known facts from that period that portray the devastation that slavery caused. As the book closes with Lincoln's assassination, the powerful message of Lincoln and Douglass's friendship resonates with the reader. This book would be an asset for any classroom because it shows how two men set lasting examples of equality, integrity, and selflessness. Reviewer: Courtney M. Krieger
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
The winner of the Newbery Medal for Lincoln: A Photobiography returns to his award-winning subject to focus attention on the history-making friendship between two self-made men whose stances against slavery changed American history forever. Freedman provides numerous parallels between the lives of these two American icons, most strikingly that both studied the book The Columbian Orator, "a collection of speeches and dialogues about freedom, democracy, and courage," as preparation for becoming two of the most stirring orators of the nineteenth century. An escaped and then freed slave, Douglass abhorred slavery; Lincoln's first exposure to slavery sickened him, but his political career was initially built around halting the expansion of slavery rather than abolishing it completely. Lincoln welcomed Douglass to the White House, the only black man bold enough to seek an audience with the president: "Mr. Douglass, I know you...Sit down, I am glad to see you." Lincoln heard, and heeded, Douglass's complaints about unequal treatment of black soldiers in the Union army; Douglass came to understand why Lincoln, facing unbearable political pressures, had been slow to take the decisive step of emancipation. The two men forged a lasting friendship based on their intersecting goals: "Douglass needed Lincoln's help to rid the nation of slavery. Lincoln needed Douglass to help him end the war and reunite the nation." Freedman's book is enormously readable, engaging, inspirational, and moving. Illustrated with numerous period photographs and drawings, the book also contains a list of relevant historic sites to visit, selected bibliography, source notes, and index. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Library Journal
Freedman—arguably the best biographer for young people—offers another look at one of his favorite subjects, Abraham Lincoln. Here Freedman chronicles Lincoln’s friendship with another great man of the Civil War era, Frederick Douglass. Although they only met three times, Lincoln considered Douglass enough of a friend that, after the assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln sent Douglass the gift of Lincoln’s favorite walking stick. Their first meeting, on August 10, 1863, frames the first half of Freedman’s story, describing the parallels between the growing-up years of the two great men: both rose to success after having been born in reduced circumstances, and both had an affinity for the Columbian Orator. The second half examines how the men’s friendship changed the course of history by paving the way for the Emancipation Proclamation. As has come to be expected with this prolific and always excellent historian, the bookmaking is exquisite, featuring rare period photographs and source material. Freedman has done it again.

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal
Gr 5–10—Freedman tells the story of a friendship between two men who shared many characteristics. Lincoln and Douglass were both self-educated, born into poverty, and, through relentless effort and hard work, reached great success. Both men fought for freedom and equality for all Americans, both black and white, as promised in the Declaration of Independence. Divided into 10 chapters, the book offers biographical details for each man, an overview of the Civil War, Lincoln's changing attitude toward African Americans, Douglass's endeavors to create black regiments within the Union army, and descriptions of the men's face-to-face meetings. Captioned black-and-white photographs and reproductions are found on almost every page. An appendix, a selected bibliography, notes, and a list of historic sites complete the volume. Douglass's quotes are largely taken from his three autobiographies, and the Lincoln quotes, while taken from secondary sources, are from definitive and modern standard sources. A first-rate volume for classroom study and general reading.—Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges
Kirkus Reviews
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met only three times, but their friendship changed a nation. Lincoln was white and president of the United States; Douglass was black and a former slave. Yet they were kindred spirits: Both had risen from poverty to prominence, both were self-educated men and both had a book in common, Caleb Bingham's The Columbian Orator. In fact, 12-year-old Douglass was secretly reading the book of speeches and dialogues in Baltimore at the same time Lincoln was reading it in Illinois, and the appendix here presents an excerpt, "Dialogue between a Master and Slave." When they first met, in 1863, the nation was at war. Lincoln struggled to keep the nation together, while Douglass welcomed war as a first step toward ending slavery; Douglass was ever the voice of moral conscience, nudging Lincoln to do the right thing on behalf of the enslaved. In this slim volume, Freedman makes a narrative challenge look effortless. He tells the stories of two prominent Americans, traces the debate over slavery from the Missouri Compromise to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision and explains how these events created a momentum that pushed the nation toward war. He does all of this in a lucid and fascinating narrative that never sacrifices depth and intellectual rigor. A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting. (selected bibliography, notes, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547385624
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/19/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 215,727
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1110L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.60 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Russell Freedman received the Newbery Medal for LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. He is also the recipient of three Newbery Honors, a National Humanities Medal, the Sibert Medal, the Orbis Pictus Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and was selected to give the 2006 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City and travels widely to research his books.

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