SLAVE AND CITIZEN: The Life of Frederick Douglass by Nathan Irvin Huggins

SLAVE AND CITIZEN: The Life of Frederick Douglass

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In his own time, the life of Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who became a national leader, was such an important example to blacks and whites alike that Douglass himself wrote three autobiographies. Drawing upon these and other published sources, Huggins (Black Odyssey, Harlem Renaissance) retells the story of Douglass as a man who exemplifies the great issues and encounters the great personalities of his day. From his youth as a Maryland slave who would not be beaten to his last essay on lynching (1894), Douglass' first concern was his people. Huggins portrays his early abolitionist lecture tours with Garrison, his confrontations with an unbending Lincoln, and his 17-year editorship of the North Star. There are failures such as the fall of the Freedmen's Bank, broken alliances with political/ideological friends like Anthony and Cady Stanton, and the big flap over his second (happy) marriage to white Helen Pitts. According to Huggins, Douglass' sustaining faith in the inevitability of justice was sorely tried in post-Reconstruction years, recalling him in his seventies to the radicalism of his youth; but the times, turning backward, found new ""leadership"" in the hard-working, deferential Booker T. Washington and tried to forget the lessons of Douglass, the slave who had freed himself. Huggins' succinct, readable biography complements Quarles' and telescopes Foner's invaluable four volumes (The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass), but it is once again the story of the exemplary public man, who--one suspects--may have kept to himself a few things worth knowing.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown