Imatge de l'autor

David W. Blight

Autor/a de Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

19+ obres 3,512 Membres 52 Ressenyes 3 preferits

Sobre l'autor

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 mostra'n més 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 mostra'n menys
Crèdit de la imatge: David W. Blight

Obres de David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018) — Autor — 1,086 exemplars
A People and a Nation: A History of the United States (1982) — Autor — 210 exemplars

Obres associades

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) — Editor, algunes edicions9,137 exemplars
The Souls of Black Folk [Bedford Cultural Editions] (1997) — Editor — 142 exemplars
Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World (2008) — Col·laborador — 113 exemplars
The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents (2002) — Pròleg — 92 exemplars
Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965) — Introducció, algunes edicions68 exemplars
Muller v. Oregon: A Brief History with Documents (1996) — Pròleg — 61 exemplars
The Columbian Orator (1797) — Introducció, algunes edicions58 exemplars
Voter Suppression in U.S. Elections (2020) — Col·laborador — 24 exemplars


Coneixement comú



Facing a seven-hour drive, I picked up this audiobook so that I wouldn’t have to listen to a business book for that long in one day. The author David Blight had won a Pulitzer Prize and is renowned for his annals of African-American history. I knew his writing to be eloquent and clear, and his observations of human nature, compassionate and acute. I had great hopes for this drive, and thankfully, with Blight’s erudite help, it passed very quickly. I was drawn into and moved by these self-written life stories of two self-emancipated slaves.

Self-written emancipation narratives are extremely rare. Though oral stories circulated in American culture after the Civil War, few were written down. Even fewer were written down by the formerly enslaved person themselves. These two narratives fit squarely in that category, grammatical errors and all. Only in recent decades, the public became aware of them. Blight artfully retells each of these stories for modern readers and then shares both stories in their original, unedited form.

Listening to this book is like peeling a vidalia onion, each step slightly tear-inducing yet commingled with a savory sweetness. Blight opens with an introduction and then tells their stories using scholarly knowledge to bring modern readers up to speed. Then, he shares broader historical information not in the original accounts, like what we know happened to them afterwards and how their lives fit into wider American history. Finally, the essential core is shared in the life stories in the self-emancipated heroes themselves, told in their own words. The entire product is moving and engrossing.

John Washington was enslaved in Virginia yet became literate as a city slave. After escaping, he ended up helping the Union army while fighting for his wife and children’s freedom. Wallace Turnage, enslaved in the fields of Alabama, tried to escape an impressive five times as a teenager before finally succeeding. Turnage’s tale became more exciting each time I heart it, and the final telling – in his own words – stirred my heart within. He overcame being hunted, whippings, hunger, daunting landscapes, and the waters of Mobile Bay in order to gain freedom. What better voice to tell of America’s deep meaning!

Since after the Civil War all the way to today, many white people have tried to sweep slavery’s unseemliness into a forgotten past. That’s unfortunate. Not only is that unjust for people still struggling with similar racist obstacles today, but it also lacks the depths of inspiration for all of us. People like John Washington and Wallace Turnage are inspiring human beings for what they overcame to treasure life’s freedoms. They just happened to be black slaves. They are proud emblems of America. During the upcoming Black History Month, they inspire me, a white man with plenty of privilege, to learn more about the people around me in America and to benefit from their stories, their courage, and their heart.
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scottjpearson | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Jan 27, 2024 |
This was the book I’d been reading on and off for a couple of years—a bit of a doorstop, this one, and a challenge to read anywhere except on a comfy chair and a bright light. I picked the book up after reading, in succession, all three versions of Douglass’s Life and Times. (I know that sounded strange. But it becomes apparent how Douglass expands on sections he previously glossed over (like his escape) or portrays key incidents differently. It's fascinating, for instance, to read how Douglass remembers his mother, or chooses to remember his mother, from version to version.)

Blight pores through Douglass's writings and letters (and interestingly, what’s missing from the letters) to create a complex historical and psychological portrait of “the greatest American who ever lived.” It sometimes feels too stuffed with historical detail; Douglass was constantly on speaking tours, and so we are repeatedly told of his itinerary, what he ate, who he met, and so on. What worked best for me were Blight’s close readings of Douglass’s speeches, and how Douglas metaphorically positions himself in relation to the Biblical prophets, or the rupture and tumult of the previous few decades of American history, or his own personal biography.
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thewilyf | Hi ha 20 ressenyes més | Dec 25, 2023 |
David Blight is an eminent, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian interested in the role of race in American history. Many think that American attitudes about race were “solved” by the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. Those battles were won by the Union and not the Confederacy, right? This book seeks to chronicle how in the 50 years after emancipation (until around World War I), southern states and the promotion of “Lost Cause” ideology won a place in American society, north and south. Americans were more concerned with reconciliation among the whites than peace among all peoples. This attitude laid the necessity of further social action in the Civil Rights movements, up to today.

When I was ten years old, I moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to upstate South Carolina. I noticed a cultural difference in attitudes about the Civil War. My community in St. Louis was quite proudly multicultural while my community in South Carolina was predominantly white. Southernisms abounded, like the word “y’all” and sayings like “The devil’s beating his wife” when it rained. Likewise, conversations about the Civil War were less about the end of slavery and more about family who fought.

I have since lived in northern, western, and southern states and currently live in urban Tennessee. I’ve seen a lot of attitudes about the Civil War and racism: Northern pride over “uneducated southerners,” southern regions with a pro-Union history, southerners celebrating frank ignorance, and a Nashville pride of birthing the Civil Rights movement. Often forgotten are the victims and survivors of slavery and white supremacy. Blight’s book indicts all white history with abundant, carefully reasoned evidence. Our ancestors almost universally favored white reunion over racial reconciliation. Civil rights movements, past and present, try to overturn the remnants of such structural racism. White supremacy lingered far past 1863 or 1865. Indeed, some is still with us, north and south.

I appreciate this book for correcting my common tendency to overlook racial injustice. I’ve tried to fight it in protests, professional advocacy, and personal relationships. Yet anywhere in America, it’s easy to fall prey to forgetting historical inertia. And I remain a complicit part of that forgetful inertia. Blight’s work clearly corrects that tendency in a dispassionate, erudite, and reflective manner. By enlightening me and healing my own unknowing biases, I hope it will help me have better relationships and construct a better society. The American experiment is not done yet, and Race and Reunion can help put up a few more supporting flanks in its house.
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scottjpearson | Hi ha 13 ressenyes més | Dec 16, 2023 |
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.
… (més)
gideonslife | Hi ha 20 ressenyes més | Jan 5, 2023 |



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