NPR

'Frederick Douglass' Is An Extended Meditation On The Legend's Self-Invention

David W. Blight's opus manages to be both a celebration of a remarkable life and a sober reminder of the many ways in which our terrible times are shaped by those Douglass lived through.
Source: NPR

Frederick Douglass continues to be an irresistible subject for biographers because all of the nation's difficult, miraculous, unresolved creation myths seem to collapse into the single story of his life.

The scourge of slavery; the grace of individual liberty; the sanctity of the Constitution, women's suffrage; the transformative power of equal opportunity; the moral decency of the America experiment: All of this mythology threads its way through Douglass's life in contentious and illuminating ways that reflect the racial and political tensions that consumed the country then.

That so many of the problems Douglass identified and confronted 150 years ago remain difficult, urgent and unresolved today only adds to the allure of the story.

In , author and historian David W. Blight does not hide his admiration for his subject: "There is no greater voice of America's transformation from slavery to freedom than Douglass's," he writes in the early pages.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min readPolitics
Streets Of San Juan A 'War Zone' As Protesters Call For Governor To Resign
Some of Puerto Rico's biggest stars attended, and tensions ratcheted up later when protesters burst through a barricade at the governor's mansion and security forces fired tear gas at the crowd.
NPR6 min readScience
The Water Crisis In Chennai, India: Who's To Blame And How Do You Fix It?
Reservoirs are dry in India's sixth biggest city. Municipal taps work only a few hours a day. Trains are delivering emergency water supplies.
NPR4 min read
In Rome, Uncollected Trash Festers In Scorching Heat
Doctors have warned of health risks from tons of garbage rotting in the Italian capital's streets during the summer's hot spells.