Monday, June 4, 2012

Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship - a review

Freedman, Russell. 2012. Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The date is August 10, 1863. Frederick Douglass has arrived at the White House, taking a seat on the stairs, determined to speak with President Lincoln.  Many others are waiting as well.  Douglass stands out in the crowd, not just for his size.  All the other petitioners are White.  Douglass, a freed Black is an outspoken critic of Lincoln.  The two men have never met.  Douglass has no appointment.  He is prepared to wait.

He does not wait long, however.  The President does see Frederick Douglass on August 10, 1863; and in Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship, award-winning author, Russell Freedman tells us why.

Freedman is a master writer, and ingeniously sets up this story of friendship. Chapter One, "Waiting for Mr. Lincoln," sets the stage.  The next three chapters detail the life of Frederick Douglass before his meeting with Lincoln.  Three subsequent chapters do the same for the President.  The final three chapters highlight the collaboration of the two men in pursuit of their mutual interest, abolition.

The extensive use of period photographs and artwork, as well as images of period realia (election poster, paycheck, editorial cartoons and the like) add interest to an already compelling story.  The depth of Lincoln's regard for Douglass is cemented by the revelation that Mary Todd Lincoln sent Douglass a memento after Lincoln's death, knowing that Lincoln had "wanted to do something to express his warm personal regard" for Douglass.

Appendix: Dialogue Between a Master and Slave, Historic Sites, Selected Bibliography, Notes (on the sources of more than one hundred quotes) and Picture Credits (including many from the Newbery Medal-winning Russell Freedman book, Lincoln: A Photobiography) round out this extensively researched book.

The Contents page indicates an Index beginning on page 115, however, it was apparently not completed in time for the printing of the Advance Reading Copies.

Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglas is suggested for Grades 4-7, and is due on shelves June 19, 2012.  It is a fascinating look at two of the most influential men of their time by one of the great children's authors of our time.  Highly recommended.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at True Tales with a Cherry on Top.  Next week's roundup will be right here at Shelf-employed.


  1. Be sure to check back at True Tales & A Cherry On Top ... Barbara Kerley responded to your comment about her book :)

  2. Looks fascinating. I wish we had more call for American history in the Alberta curriculum just so books like this one could find their way into students hands more easily.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  3. I LOVE Freedman! I use his writing as a model for my own! This books looks amazing! I cannot wait until my library gets a copy. Thanks for letting us know about this new title.


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