A thin extrinsic strand holds these four lives together: all were born in slavery, all achieved freedom. As the exemplar heroine of the great American tragedy, Harriet Tubman has been celebrated repeatedly and cogently; the lackluster treatment of her life here adds nothing to her record or her renown. Frederick Douglass has long been recognized as the outstanding Negro leader of the nineteenth century, and biographies of various lengths are readily available; this treatment catches fire because it reflects his uncompromising commitment to the cause of his people, and prepares the reader to understand the contribution of lesser and later men. Robert Smalls the pilot who ran the Charleston blockade and later became an effective public figure, is perhaps better known for his initial act of bravery and his skill as a pilot than he is for his more significant political career; this places him squarely in the midst of Reconstruction. Blanche K. Bruce, the senator from Mississippi who was the only Negro ever to serve a full six-year term, is the least familiar of the four; his life illumines the post-Civil War period from a somewhat different angle and represents a success sometimes clouded by necessary compromise. Despite a definite weakness of style, despite some duplication of existing material, this scores in all but the first section as basic communication of men, events, environment.