COLONEL OF THE BLACK REGIMENT: The Life of Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Howard Meyer
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COLONEL OF THE BLACK REGIMENT: The Life of Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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If you haven't heard of Higginson before, you'll wonder why; if you wonder why the book is so long, you'll soon find out. The title is a cue-in to only one of Higginson's many roles, as commander of the first regiment of ex-slaves in the Union Army; at other times he was successively and concurrently an active abolitionist (on lecture platforms, in attempts to prevent the return of fugitive slaves, in Bloody Kansas, as a backer of John Brown), an early and consistent supporter of woman's suffrage, a pioneer in physical fitness, the confidant of Emily Dickinson (and preceptor of other women writers), a prolific author of essays, memoirs (most notably Army Life in a Black Regiment), and a landmark Young Folks' History of the United States, the opponent of jingo injustice, first in Mexico, last in the Philippines--first and last he was, as Mr. Meyer rightly claims, a fighter for freedom. His eighty--two years envelop and illumine an enormous amount of American history and provide first-hand acquaintance with an extraordinary procession of notables--Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, Whittier; Parker, Channing, Douglass; Lucy Stone (at whose wedding he officiated); Harriet Tubman, Robert Smalls, lesser-known Negroes of like stature; John Brown (whose family made a lasting impression on Higginson); Helen Hunt Jackson and Julia Ward Howe in addition to Emily Dickinson. His direct concern for the Negro gives the book its greatest interest today, but in many ways this is the best sort of biography in the old sense of information and inspiration. A lot to read, a lot to learn.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1967
Publisher: Norton