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The Columbian Orator Paperback – June, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Thousands of young readers in 19th century America learned about eloquence and liberty from the stirring speeches, plays, and poems in The Columbian Orator. When one reads it today—even better, reads it aloud—its eloquence speaks to us all."

-Sydney Nathans,Duke University

"The Columbian Orator was of profound importance to the shaping of the African American canon, through The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. David Blight has done historians and literary critics a profound service by so expertly editing this germinal text. A must read for scholars of American and African American studies."

-Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,Harvard University

"Frederick Douglass validated his manhood by giving Edward Covey, his surrogate slave master, a good whipping. What inspired his fists was not only manly rage, but liberating knowledge—knowledge gained in part from his reading of The Columbian Orator. I read it now and the words still inspire and inflame."

-Ossie Davis --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Professor of History and Black Studies at Amherst College, David W. Blight is the author of Fredrick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee and editor of the Bedford Books editions of Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, An American Slave and W. E. B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Caring Pubns; Revised edition (June 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0962836346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962836343
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,239,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Arlene A. Wilson on December 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Can I give more than five stars? If I could, this book would get it!

If you are doing research on Frederick Douglass, this book is a must. Along with his four autobiographies, this book provides insight into the academic and intellectual development of the man who is considered the template for African American leadership. Most well read people have a favorite book, and a book that influenced them significantly.

This is both for Douglass.

The introduction by David Blight, which presents a sociological study and history of the originator of this 19th century American standard is worth the price of the book alone.

You may even want to buy two-- one to write in, and another to keep when the first one is beat up and the pages are falling out.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Written in the early 1800's Caleb Bingham's "Columbian Orator" is a compilation of addresses by the likes of Cicero, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, etc. designed for young boys of the era to practice oratory (it also gives some interesting 19th Century advice on capturing an audience). The addresses also center around the theme of freedom and the brotherhood of humanity.

It is said that Abraham Lincoln read this book as a child. But perhaps the most famous contribution of this book to American history is that a young slave named Frederick Douglass purchased this as his first book. A play in this book entitled "Dialogue Between a Master and A Slave" (where the slave has a battle of wits with his master who ends up freeing him) inspired Douglass to understand that he could fight for freedom with his MIND, thus leading to his career as a freedom fighter to end Americna slavery.

I have often used this story (that is mentioned in David Blight's introductory notes and in Douglass' various bios) to inspire young people to use the power of their minds. This wisdom for the ages will inspire you also. Take a look at what made great minds like Lincoln and Frederick Douglass tick.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Touted as Frederick Douglass' favorite book, "The Columbian Orator" is a great deal more than that. This collection of speeches presented in two parts, (the first part consisting of the original collection and the second part a bonus consisting of modern speeches added to the original collection) not only is a very fine collection in its own right, but also was the book used to teach Douglass to read and then to go on and become one of this nation's finest orators. But more than that, it also served as the foundation for the art of forensics in the U.S. for more than a century.

Douglass acquired it for fifty cents at a time when it was illegal for blacks to either buy, own, or read books. But not only did he buy it. He read it and put it to maximal use: He virtually slew slavery with it! There may be better examples of the power of one book having an impact on the world, but none have had such a direct, immediate and profound consequence in doing so as this one. I had always wondered how an illiterate slave could master the art of public speaking with such skill and with such style and flourish as Douglas did and as is exhibited in all of his speeches, but especially in his masterpiece of American oratory "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

And now I know: He used the "The Columbian Orator."

If one reads the speeches in part one of this book carefully, it then becomes clear that Douglass, not only read them, he imbibed them; remembered them; could recite most of them from memory; and then he used them and their vocabulary; the style, and the logical construction of their arguments, as a template for developing his own style and verbal defensive skills against slavery.
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