Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

by John Stauffer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446698986
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 11/12/2009
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 249,551
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John Stauffer is Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. His first book, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Harvard University Press, 2002), was the co-winner of the 2002 Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institue; winner of the Avery Craven Book Prize from the OAH; and the Lincoln Prize runner-up. Other works include: Meteor of War: The John Brown Story (with Zoe Trodd, 2004); Frederick Douglass' My Bondage and My Freedom (editor, 2003). Visit his website at http://johnstaufferbooks.com/.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Proloug / Meeting the President (August 10, 1863) 1

1 Privileged Slave and Poor White Trash 25

2 Fugitive Orator and Frontier Politician 67

3 Radical Abolitionist and Republican 129

4 Abolitionist Warrior and War President 213

5 Friends 273

Epilogue 303

Acknowledgments 315

Notes 319

Index 417

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Giants 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As the nation's preeminent scholar of interracial friendship, John Stauffer turns in Giants from his previous prize-winning work on abolitionist friends to offer the first collective biography of the two preeminent self-made men in American history: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. That previous book, The Black Hearts of Men, was a hard act to follow but Stauffer goes even further here in Giants. Vivid, insightful, exceptionally well-researched and beautifully written, Giants restores to both mythic figures their complexity, ambiguity, and humanity, giving us an entirely fresh vision of two individuals who transformed themselves before they could transform society. Just as exciting, though, is the parallel narrative of national identity. As Stauffer reflects one giant off the other, we see in their intersecting lives a national journey toward the Second Revolution of the 1860s. This braided story of Lincoln and Douglass, one of change and self-making, alliance and conflict, faith and loss, is the nation¿s own story of bonds and betrayals during the nineteenth century. In fact, while other books might focus on Douglass and Lincoln's politics during the Civil War, only Stauffer examines the bigger picture: the ways they made and remade themselves and the nation their lives, loves, friendships, and the whole nature of love and friendship in the Civil War era. He weaves together themes of historical memory, race, gender, loyalty and forgiveness, empathy, outsiders, and the boundaries of the personal and political. The book therefore gives us a deeper, fuller picture of both men's lives and characters, and also a window on a whole era. This is history and biography written in glorious techicolor: set against Douglass, Lincoln comes alive anew - and vice versa - but so too does the intense drama of the time. And that history is a living drama: as we approach the potential election of Barack Obama, a man who is said to transcend race but might finally replace Lincoln 'and Clinton' as the nation's first 'black president,' has publicly grappled with the changing nature of his own friendships, and acknowledges the political and personal inspiration of both Douglass and Lincoln, we might find in Stauffer's dazzling page-turner a framework for understanding the story of Obama and ourselves in 2008. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
ReviewYourBook.com More than 1 year ago
Written by: John Stauffer
Published by: Twelve
Reviewed by: Stephanie Rollins for ReviewYourBook.com 12/2008
ISBN: 978-0-446-58009-0
¿Easy to Read¿ 4 stars
I do not like history books. My mind usually shuts off when a book takes a historical turn. This book actually held my attention. It reads like a novel.
Both Lincoln and Douglass were self-made and self-taught. It is mentioned in this book that Douglass raised himself from slavery. Douglass raised himself from white trash. The parallels only start there. Even those who do not like history will love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I find myself inspired by the lives of these two giants. The author does a magnificent job of hiding any political or socioeconomic biases he may hold (for the most part) and offers a candid and intimate telling of the parralel lives of these two giants. The book is full of lessons for those of us who continue to ne interested in racial reconciliation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author succeeds not only in delineating two lives that parallel each other in unexpected ways; Stauffer fulfills his exploration of interracial friendship with an exemplum that gives hope that such a thing is not only possible but worth striving for. More than a literary device, the juxtaposition of Lincoln and Douglass affords a unique perspective on a seminal period in American history, depicting the worlds of whites (abolitionists and slave owners) and blacks (freemen and slaves) and the intractable dilemma that plagued this young nation. Stauffer fleshes out his narrative with colorful detail and vivid episodes. He has focused his material to a length and complexity that is manageable for the average reader while satisfying to the scholar (more than a hundred pages of notes and references). Professor Stauffer reveals how Lincoln's father drafted him into bondage by renting him out to plow and harvest fields and split rails, appropriating his son's wages for himself. He quotes Lincoln as feeling little different from black boys: "we were all slaves one time or another." His youth in the rough and tumble of the backwoods -- where men boasted about disfiguring each other in bloody bouts -- gave him visceral knowledge of a culture of violence. These early experiences linked him to blacks in general and Douglass in particular, who suffered such severe beatings at the hands of slave masters that he could dramatize his famous speeches by exposing his back full of scars. Never an abolitionist, Lincoln's objective as president was to preserve the Union. Stauffer depicts Lincoln as a practical politician, attempting to conciliate and thereby drawing fire from both sides. He received Douglass at the White House where the two established a mutual personal respect; this did not stop the black abolitionist from using his megaphone to attack Lincoln's early policies. In the end these two extraordinary men did find ways to join forces for the benefit of both the Union and for blacks. Stauffer's diptych is an appreciation of each of these "Giants," profiling them, in their common ground and their differences, with style.
mryoda More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have read in a very long time. The author does a very decent job of looking at some interesting parallels and differences between these two figures. His writing style is fast paced and well developed which makes for easy reading and a lot to think about in the moments between picking up the book and putting it down.
The book is well organized and will leave the reader wanting to know even more about these two very interesing men. As a high school history teacher, I highly recommend it.
jms1813 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
5 stars, it's a brilliant book
reannon on LibraryThing 10 months ago
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.
estamm on LibraryThing 10 months ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is written like an essay. It's a great read for students doing research on either Lincoln or Douglass, or their relationship. I learned so much about how they felt about each other, and how they each dealt with slavery and racism in America at the time. You will learn a lot. It's very well researched with extensive notes and bibliography. I gave it four stars because it was a little boring to read at times due to the style in which it was written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sure he can come. I live at chiron res 6. I will meet you there
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey bro. Lets go to Swan Lake on Ice. Come he. He then beought his bro to the show.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very interesting read. Two people who seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum with such strong similarities.
Rwq1 More than 1 year ago
Interesting account of two life's and each individuals response to adversity. The response to challenges and their ability to recognize them as opportunities. How their respective life's were lived and woven together. Two simple men, not chasing greatness, just seeking something better. Never quitting even when sorely tempted but both accepting their doubts and overcoming their fear. Two life's that are a testament to mans ability to overcome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is highly enjoyable and sheds light on the relationship between two of the most influential men in American history and their incredible rise to prominence. The author's style is pleasing and leaves you with a need to learn to more about both Douglass and Lincoln.
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