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Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader & a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery & Save the Union [Hardcover]

by Paul Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 26, 2007 0802715230 978-0802715234 First Edition
Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had only three meetings, but their exchanges profoundly influenced the course of slavery and the outcome of the Civil War.
Although Abraham Lincoln deeply opposed the institution of slavery, he saw the Civil War at its onset as being primarily about preserving the Union. Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, by contrast saw the War's mission to be the total and permanent abolition of slavery. And yet, these giants of the nineteenth century, despite their different outlooks, found common ground, in large part through their three historic meetings.
Lincoln first invited Douglass to the White House in August 1862. Well-known for his speeches and his internationally read abolitionist newspaper, Douglass laid out for the president his concerns about how the Union army was discriminating against black soldiers. Douglass, often critical of the president in his speeches and articles, was impressed by Lincoln's response. The following summer when the war was going poorly, the president summoned Douglass to the White House. Fearing that he might not be reelected, Lincoln showed Douglass a letter he had prepared stating his openness to negotiating a settlement to end the Civil War--and leave slavery intact in the South. Douglass strongly advised Lincoln against making the letter public. Lincoln never did; Atlanta fell and he was reelected. Their final meeting was at the White House reception following Lincoln's second inaugural address, where Lincoln told Douglass there was no man in the country whose opinion he valued more and Douglass called the president's inaugural address "sacred." 
In elegant prose and with unusual insights, Paul and Stephen Kendrick chronicle the parallel lives of Douglass and Lincoln as a means of presenting a fresh, unique picture of two men who, in their differences, eventually challenged each other to greatness and altered the course of the nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Paul Kendrick, assistant director of the Harlem Children's Zone, and his father, Stephen, a Boston minister (coauthors of Sarah's Long Walk, about Boston's free blacks) give a thorough look at two unlikely allies. Lincoln began as a white supremacist who saw Douglass as an exception to the rule of black inferiority. What is more, his first priority was the preservation of the Union. The onetime slave Douglass, on the other hand, stood uncompromisingly for complete emancipation, to be followed by full and equal citizenship. He further held that the Civil War's massive carnage could only be redeemed by the annihilation of the "peculiar institution." Despite their mutual respect, the two men had only three face-to-face meetings, just two of these in private. Thus, this study of Douglass, Lincoln and their "relationship" is chiefly a discussion of evolving rhetoric, primarily Lincoln's on such topics as emancipation, black service in the Union ranks and black suffrage, and how his views initially contrasted with, but were eventually influenced by, Douglass's fiery arguments in public speeches and newspaper editorials. This is a workmanlike narrative of the same story recently explored by James Oakes in his critically praised The Radical and the Republican.


"[T]he Kendricks have done wonderful work exploring one of the most complex and important relationships in American history."—Chuck Leddy, Christian Science Monitor

"Since emancipation and its aftermath prompt divergent interpretations of Lincoln, the Kendricks’  fluid account of Douglass’  influence reliably lays a factual foundation for debaters about this momentous passage in American history."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"The Kendricks beautifully assess the political and moral, and often conflicting, agendas of each man, but they excel, particularly in their treatment of Douglass, at personalizing one of the history's most unlikely and effective political allies...A wise and sensitive appreciation of the intersecting careers of two giants of American history."—Kirkus Reviews

"Filled with passion and intrigue, Douglass and Lincoln vividly brings to life an unlikely partnership that will grow to epitomize the transformation of a nation.  This captivating double portrait illuminates both figures, often in surprising ways."—Forrest Church, author of So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State

"The Kendricks have done it again!  Here is important history, well written and well told.  They have given us the eyes of Frederick Douglass to see Abraham Lincoln without the martyrdom and the Civil War without the mythology.  Intimate, accurate, and thoughtful, Douglass and Lincoln should be the starting place for anyone wishing to understand how Northern blacks saw the political turmoil of the 1850s and the Civil War.”—Donald Yacovone, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University

Douglass and Lincoln transports you back into the private meetings, debate halls and violent clashes that gripped our nation as it wrestled with the question of how to end slavery while preserving a fragile union. It's a compelling book of history, as well as a great read for those learning to be leaders who make history.”—Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802715230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802715234
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,954,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Reseached, Compellingly Written February 13, 2008
This is a truly fascinating book and an exciting story.
The Kendricks' use letters, articles and mountains of other research to bring these men and their struggles to life. I found myself seeing them not as icons, but as people. It is an exciting story to follow Douglass' mission to make the Civil War about freedom, his son's perilous experiences as soldiers and the Kendricks' interesting take on Lincoln's evolution.
Watching Lincoln through Douglass' gave me a Lincoln I had never seen before. While they do not hold back with aspects of Lincoln on race that may surprise you, he emerges as great because he is not paralyzed by his prejudices as he rises to monumental deeds.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. These two have a true gift for making history interesting and inspiring.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands out from the Lincoln crowd February 29, 2008
As a student of history, I found this a compelling look at two towering figures and a cogent study of their rarely-explored relationship through the Civil War. Approaching the subject with subtlety and sensitivity, Kendrick and Kendrick make a case for the mutual influence of their dialogue. It was this force that ultimately cemented Lincoln's conviction to continue the war, not just his aversion to breaking the Union. Through new primary sources--unpublished letters, black abolitionist papers--the book provides critical background which gives abolition new resonance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read June 1, 2008
By John S.
Douglass and Lincoln is an exceptionally researched and well-written book on the relationship between these two important men. Most of the book focuses on Douglass rather than Lincoln, perhaps necessarily so. The Kendricks do a superb job of tracing Lincoln's slow transformation from a leader reluctant to press the emancipation issue to one who eventually embraced it, all within the context of Douglass's lifelong struggle not only for emancipation, but for equality. Douglass and Lincoln met only a few times, but it's evident in this book that they held a mutual respect for each other due to each man's struggle against adversity in their early lives. I recommend this book not only because it is well-researched, but because it's well-written. It's quite a page turner. I couldn't put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TWO SELF MADE MEN December 23, 2010
President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass came from two different walks of life and led very different lives. They were both, as Douglass would later describe it, `self-made men' with Douglass rising out of slavery and Lincoln out of poverty to become leading figures of the nation. Lincoln would become a politician and rise to become the sixteenth president of the United States. Frederick Douglass would become a politician too, but not an office-seeking one. He would be on the outreaches of power doing all he could, in his genius, to fight for the enslaved and for justice for all African-Americans. Stephan and Paul Kendrick, father and son, recreate the epic political battles of the Mid-Nineteenth century United States over slavery and the Constitution.

Both Lincoln and Douglass had to overcome many hurdles in life to get to their destinies. Lincoln was born into extreme poverty. He had a cruel and overbearing father who worked all he could out of him until he was twenty-one. Douglass had been born into slavery. He did not even know who his father was, although he had a strong suspicion that it was the man who, by the law, owned him. Both would over come these obstacles on the road to greatness.

Lincoln managed to educate himself and `read law' in order to join the bar and become a frontier lawyer. He would win election to the state legislature and become a vocal minority leader as a member of the Whig Party. He would serve one mediocre term in the United States House of Representatives. In the 1850s, two failed Senate bids, one against the legendary Stephen Douglas, established Lincoln as one of the leading voices against slavery, the expansion of slavery, and slave power.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Learning experience April 5, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I learned a lot, not only about Douglas and Lincoln, but also about the environment leading up to and surrounding the Civil War. These were two complex men, each with his own powerful belief system, that found a way to change history, with Douglas significantly influencing Lincoln. It's impossible to fully understand the conditions and perspectives of their time, but this book did a good job of putting me into those times and helped me understand these men and the burdens they carried and the passions they felt. And, it was a pleasant read, a historical page turner.
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