Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden

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Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden

Title: Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man
By: Tonya Bolden
Published: 2018
Call #: YA B Dougl.F Bolde.T

If ever the times cried out for a hero, it was the era of the Civil War. The American nation, not even 100 years old as an independent country, was threatened by dissolution owing to the seemingly insurmountable disagreements between free states of the North and the slave holding states of the South. Fortunately, there was a hero who rose to the need. His name was Frederick Douglass. Called by the author of this book, Tonya Bolden, “the defacto president of black America”, Frederick was a man of moral and physical courage, fully equal to the task, and one to which he gave a lifetime commitment.

Being born into slavery, Frederick began his life fully exposed to its indignities. As a slave child, it wasn’t thought necessary to record his birthday. He chose February 14, 1818, as his birthday, based on his mother, of whom he had only brief and sporadic contact,calling him her “little valentine”. As a young man of independent spirit, it was thought necessary to send Frederick to a slave-breaker, in order to tame him, and reduce his strong will so that he would be more tractable for service. This relationship was reduced to a beating of the slave-breaker, Edward Covey, by Frederick, and the slave-breaker never touched him again. Frederick knew he needed to break the bonds of slavery, and with the assistance of his future wife, friends and allies, he disguised himself as a sailor, with borrowed documents attesting to an identity as a freedman, and headed for the North from his native Maryland.

He landed on free soil in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the famous seaport and whaling town. There, he became involved with the abolitionist movement and one of its prominent leaders, William Lloyd Garrison. It did not take long for Garrison and Frederick Douglass to have a falling out. It was suggested to Frederick that he act less educated, and should use a “plantation voice” (presumably a rustic accent) when speaking. Rejecting this demeaning type of control by white abolitionists, Frederick struck out on his own, and not only continued to speak in his own voice and from his own mind, but he founded his great paper, the North Star, a beacon in the fight against what he called the “twin monsters of darkness”: slavery and racism. ( It should be added that Frederick and William Lloyd Garrison later reconciled, uniting once again against their common enemy).

Frederick’s life and career was parallel with the development of photography. One of the special attributes of this biography is that it showcases his life visually, enabling the reader to witness Frederick at every stage of that life and career. Historically, Frederick’s biography also provides excellent background on the anti-slavery movement, the Civil War and Reconstruction. After Emancipation, Frederick’s work was far from over: then he directed his energies to the national vote for freed Americans.

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man, is a wonderful way to meet this great American hero. You will enjoy the introduction.


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