From Publishers Weekly
The perennial tension between principle and pragmatism in politics frames this engaging account of two Civil War Era icons. Historian Oakes (Slavery and Freedom
) charts the course by which Douglass and Lincoln, initially far apart on the antislavery spectrum, gravitated toward each other. Lincoln began as a moderate who advocated banning slavery in the territories while tolerating it in the South, rejected social equality for blacks and wanted to send freedmen overseas—and wound up abolishing slavery outright and increasingly supporting black voting rights. Conversely, the abolitionist firebrand Douglass moved from an impatient, self-marginalizing moral rectitude to a recognition of compromise, coalition building and incremental goals as necessary steps forward in a democracy. Douglass's views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln. Oakes lucidly explores how political realities and military necessity influenced Lincoln's tortuous path to emancipation, and asks whether his often bigoted pronouncements represented real conviction or strategic concessions to white racism. As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln's foot-dragging to revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there. (Jan.)
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About the Author
is a Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of several acclaimed works on the South and the Civil War, including The Radical and the Republican
and Freedom National
, both winners of the Lincoln Prize. He and his family live in New York City.