THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK written in 1903 by W.E.B. Du Bois is a remarkable and insightful read, most relevant during Black History Month. This narrative which begins following the Emancipation Proclamation peels back every layer of the condition of the former slaves lives in the post Civil War era through the early years of the 20th Century. ” The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land.”
There is a contemporary book, a perfect companion read to Du Bois. Eric Foner’s THE SECOND FOUNDING/ HOW THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION REMADE THE CONSTITUTION. The book is an in depth academic study of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS/ Prophet of Freedom by Yale University Professor David W. Blight is a definitive insight into slavery, the abolitionist movement, The Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Moreover, this essential biography delivers a remarkable look into the personal life and character of Frederick Douglass, the remarkable man and his devotion to humanity. This in depth work by Blight is an education, and as I have previously referenced in other great works of biography, every single word printed upon the 764 pages counts. There is little wonder that The New York Times honored this work as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year. I wholeheartedly agree.
Frederick Douglass followed William Lloyd Garrison to become the single most important voice of the abolitionist movement. Douglass, the self educated escaped slave was among the greatest writers and the unequaled orator of his time. He wrote three autobiographies, edited two newspapers and delivered hundreds of lectures in small and large communities throughout the country. Blight captures the enormity of Douglass’s impact on a segregated slave holding nation during the mid-eighteenth century and throughout the Civil War. Following the war, Blight unveils Douglass’s sense of extreme urgency over the fate of his people throughout the tragedy of Reconstruction, and the coming of Jim Crow. Blight leaves no doubt that Frederick Douglass was a revolutionary in his time.
‘’For it is not light that Is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened….the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed.” Frederick Douglass, July 4th 1850, Corinthian Hall, Rochester New York. Douglass could move an audience at will.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS/Prophet of Freedom, a biography of the most important African American of the 19th Century.
This book is an excellent companion read for anyone following The New York Times Podcast 1619.