Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

David W. Blight
Reading Order: Book 40
Categories: 2020, Erik Rostad
Date Started: November 9, 2020
Date Finished: December 6, 2020
29h 58m 9s
Reason Book was Chosen: I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 2019. It was one of the most impactful books so far for this project. It made me want to learn more about this man. This book by David Blight won the Pulitzer and I've heard good things. I'm looking forward to it.

My Thoughts

There is a prophet within us, forever whispering that behind the seen lies the immeasurable unseen.
– Frederick Douglass

Author David Blight argues the following about Frederick Douglass:

  1. Douglass’ life was guided by the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament
  2. Douglass himself was a prophet

For the first point, Blight shares of Douglass’ abiding love of the Old Testament prophets Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Douglass envisioned his life and times through these prophets. He built a narrative as grand as the Exodus story.

For the second point, Douglass had keen insight into the future of black Americans and of the country. From day one, he called the Civil War the Abolition War. He said it was 100% about slavery:

“Slavery will be attacked in its stronghold – the compromises of the Constitution, and the cry of disunion shall be more fearlessly proclaimed, till slavery be abolished, the Union dissolved, or the sun of this guilty nation must go down in blood.”
– written in 1848

I came away from this book with a profound love and respect for Frederick Douglass. Yes, this book won a Pulitzer Prize, but one comes away from the book not praising the author (much to Blight’s credit) but praising Frederick Douglass. Blight presents the good, the bad, and the ugly. And through it all – the degradation, the family struggles, and the ever-present death of loved ones – Douglass nears the end of his life singing hymns not just with his entire heart, but with his entire soul.

This is an astonishing book about an astonishing man. It took me 30 hours to read and it was worth every minute.

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