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Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln Paperback – November 12, 2009
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"In this stunning book, John Stauffer has given us the most insightful portrait of either Lincoln or Douglass in years. In graceful prose, he tells a moving story of the two men who dominated Nineteenth century American life -- as allies across the racial divide, friends who drew common inspiration from hard scrabble beginnings and a love of language, and fellow travelers on the road of American self-making. Giants is simply must reading!"―Richard S. Newman, author of Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers
Like a daguerreotype, which nineteenth-century Americans thought captured not simply surface appearances, but peoples' souls, this book moves beyond biography to allow us to recover the inner lives of two utterly uncommon common men. This is the most insightful book about race and friendship in the nineteenth century that I have read. It's poignant and perceptive, a book to be savored, a book that will last.―Steven Mintz, Columbia University, author of America and Its Peoples: A Mosaic in the Making
"John Stauffer's collective biography of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln stands apart from other biographies by focusing on how each man continually remade himself, with help from women, words, self-education, physical strength, and luck. In the process Stauffer gives us the texture and feel--a "thick description"--of the strange worlds that Douglass and Lincoln inhabited. The result is a path-breaking work that dissolves traditional conceptions of these two seminal figures (Lincoln the "redeemer" president, Douglass the assimilationist). He reveals how Douglass towered over Lincoln as a brilliant orator, writer, agitator, and public figure for most of his life. He shows us how words became potent weapons for both men. And he tells the poignant story of how these preeminent self-made men ultimately converged, despite their vastly different agendas and politics, and helped transform the nation."―Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University, author of The African American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Century
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Top Customer Reviews
Furthermore, I have a problem with the author blanketing the relationship between Lincoln and Speed as homosexual. If he were writing about contemporary people who had said the things Speed and Lincoln wrote to one another I would tend to agree with his conclusions. But this was a different age. The language of expression and relationships were quite different. It was not unusual for men to sleep together as a matter of convenience. We do not know what happened between Lincoln and Speed. For the author to broach the subject is not a problem, but to reach the conclusions he did without examining other possibilities is completely revisionist. I have read other biographies of Lincoln that discuss the relationship, but are willing to look at the relationship with open minds. Certainly those we admire, respect and look to are human as are the rest of us. Many outstanding intellects and leaders have been homosexual, but right or wrong, it is a stretch to attribute tendencies to an individual where such a tendency may not exist. It is not good history. Whether Lincoln and Speed were in a homosexual relationship is not the issue. Such a relationship would not diminish the greatness of Lincoln. The historical assumption of such a relationship were none may have existed is the problem. This assumption leads me to question other conclusions of the author.
"Giants" is a fine concept. I did not find as many parallels between Lincoln and Douglass as I had anticipated, but it was a fascinating study.Read more ›
Lincoln's claim to being the Great Emancipator lies not just with his Emancipation Proclamation, but also with the 13th Amendment, which he insisted on including in the 1864 Republican platform, & which he sheparded through Congress. Those who feel Lincoln was insincere about freedom and equality would do well to read LaWanda Cox's Lincoln and Black Freedom: A Study in Presidential Leadership, Richard Striner's Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle To End Slavery, and Harry Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, as well as Allen Guelzo's Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America; and James Oakes's The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. Lincoln felt that politics was the art of the possible. His political artistry included an acute knowledge of public opinion (and prejudices), a finely-honed sense of timing, and political discretion. Lincoln never retreated from emancipation once it was decided upon, just as he never affirmed black inferiority to be inherent. During his debates with Stephen Douglas he never said that he would never (in future) support equality. He didn't put stock in physical differences--in a well-known private memoranda he mused how anyone could be enslaved if the criterion was to have darker skin, or lesser intellect, because everyone was lighter or darker, or of varying degrees of intellect.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought that this book was well written and certainly well researched. I do feel that since we didn't know President Lincoln, that conjecture about his sexuality is out of place,... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Duchess
Never too late to learn. Checked out from library but made so many notes wanted my own copy. Attended discussion about Frederick Douglass at the NYC library after reading this and... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Juliette E. Leak
gift to one who loves reading about American men who influenced moral climatePublished 22 months ago by Kathleen Driver
I enjoyed reading this book. It was really the first thing I have read about both of them. It provided some great information about both people and also showed how their lives... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Maurice Troop
I am a student of Lincoln, his life, his accomplishments as president and his death. Had not seen thiss comparisn previously and reall enjoyed the read. Read morePublished on February 10, 2014 by Wayne Guthrie
I bought this as a Christmas present for my sister who is an admirer of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and she really loved it.Published on January 9, 2014 by Alexander Tonks