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Frederick Douglass

Prophet of Freedom
Narrated by: Prentice Onayemi
Length: 36 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (199 ratings)
Regular price: $37.79
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Publisher's Summary

The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the 19th century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence, he bore witness to the brutality of slavery. 

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, often to large crowds, using his own story to condemn slavery. He broke with Garrison to become a political abolitionist, a Republican, and eventually a Lincoln supporter. By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Douglass became the most famed and widely traveled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the US as well as a radical patriot. He sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights. 

In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’ newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’ two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.

©2018 David W. Blight (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

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Great content; plodding performance

The content of this book presents unparalleled insights into a character of unappreciated historical importance. However, the listen is laboriously ponderous. The reader attempts to impart profound importance to every sentence by overemphasizing each word with unduly prolonged spacing, reminiscent of those who seek the same effect by placing a Period. After. Every. Word. This book would have been much more enjoyable, and a much shorter listen, had the performer read at a normal pace.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Biography

I have not previously read any biographies of Frederick Douglass. I was aware of him from other history books or biographies. But this is an excellent biography.

I was aware of David Blight from the podcast of one of his Yale history courses but I have not read another one of his books. This was very well written and well researched. I am looking forward to reading it again in a couple years after I read some of Douglass' autobiographies directly.

Douglass is a fascinating figure.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • JB
  • Kansas-Nebraska
  • 11-10-18

The Best of Everything Audible

Let’s face it, some history doesn’t fit the audio format well. FD’s story is tailor made for it. When told by a great author like Mr. Blight and so wonderfully narrated, the combination is sublime.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Great!

This books shows an incredible man and his family life in a thought provoking way.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A great American who really had an impact on USA

Truly an amazing man who helped shape history and change minds and policy when he could. The readers soft voice took me a while to warm up to but the story kept me very interested in Frederick Douglass. The author would have done a better job if he could have left his personal political biases out of the book. Mr Blight seems to go out of his way to criticize one party's short comings while not even really discussing the other party more in passing or an off comment remark. This is still a must read though but needs to be followed up with additional reading on the time from other authors.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Best Book and Reading!

Gotta Love this Reader and the Story of Frederick Douglass. I could mot put it down, falling asleep a few times and rewinding to the last page I could remember. I will surely keep this top of list to read every now and then. Amen.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Prentice Onayemi's narration is beautiful.

Prison abolition needs us to listen and absorb this revolutionary history of struggle to overthrow whiteness
forever.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW

David Blight offers a nuanced biography of Fredrick Douglass, a great 19th century American leader. Blight shows Douglass to rival the intelligence and charisma of the best known 20th and 21st century black Americans. Like Malcolm Little (aka Malcolm X), Martin Luther King, and Barrack Obama, Douglass faces down poverty and demonstrates the equality of all human beings. Malcolm Little, King, and Obama never face the lash of slavery, but Blight shows how Douglass pushes aside physical and cultural cruelty to demand freedom and equality of all.

Though shown to begin in peace, Blight shows how Douglass grows to understand peace will not only come from words alone but must come from action. Douglass came to revere the anti-slavery violence of John Brown. John Brown is neither lionized or vindicated by Blight but is shown as a turning point; a turning from moral suasion to action by people of color against slavery. Courageously, Douglass attacks the institution of slavery before, during, and after the American Civil War. Douglass becomes the conscience of white and black America.

Blight shows Douglass, like all human beings, is imperfect. He has blind spots when speaking of freedom and equality. Douglass discounts American decimation of native Americans and denial of womens rights by arguing neither compares to slavery, subjugation, and murder of blacks.

The laws of human nature require equal treatment of all. That is the essence of what Blight is writing about in the life of Frederick Douglass.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A Life Well Lived...A Story for the Ages

As a reasonably well informed reader of history and admirer of Frederick Douglass, I found this book immensely informative and enjoyable. The author, David W. Blight, is eloquent and measured in presenting the story. The narrator, Prentice Onayemi, is smooth and insightful in his reading. I knew about Frederick Douglass for many years but had never really comprehended the true nature of his contribution to the abolition of slavery. Nor was I aware of his vast popularity as an orator, a real live superstar of the 19th century, perhaps the best known man in the country. While I always strove to get behind the mainstream narrative of the civil war, which I understood to be tainted with racism from decades of Jim Crow laws and tolerance for injustice against black people, I never before read such a comprehensive account of the anti-slavery movement that Douglass spear headed. I found it remarkable that the militant voice of an escaped slave achieved great popularity in a vastly racist society. I marveled at his courage in confronting and even fist fighting hostile mobs all over the country during the pre war years. Then, once the war was over and slavery abolished, I was fascinated by the limbo Douglass endured trying to find a new purpose once his fight against slavery was victorious. It was painful to follow his life through the years when Jim Crow arose in the South and his Republican Party lost its way. Douglass fell into a limbo we see running throughout the 20th century. I experienced it directly in the mid 1960s when civil rights militancy gave way to pro war support for the war in Vietnam, when the loud cries for justice were drowned out by greed and the quest for empire. On the personal side, I found the story of Douglass' family, his wife Anna, mother of his five children, and then his second wife Helen, to be a compelling story of transformation of life that could only have happened once slavery was abolished. For those of us who understand that the civil war was all about slavery and slavery alone, this book will provide a deep glimpse into a century of history that gave birth to the modern world we all live in today.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disrespectful To History and Douglass

I struggled with this book and at times wanted to stop reading. David Blight built much of his career off the work of Frederick Douglass and I thought he could’ve shown more respect to Douglass and to the discipline of history in his account. I was troubled by the countless examples of speculating the unknown which is not what historians do. I was troubled by the author or historian’s attempts to psychoanalyze a man he does not know. I was troubled by the way he disrespected Douglass’ marriage by sensationalizing the idea of infidelity that remains unfounded and treating it as if fact. That might be ethical for Fox News but not for a historian that claims to have a reputation such as Blight. Historians make claims on facts and there were no facts to make claims such as the ones made in regards to Douglass marriage. There was speculation about Douglass’ marriage largely rooted in the racism of the time. I’m troubled to see that this historian validated those with as much time and frequency as takes place in the book. I did, however, appreciate Douglass’ words and truthfully this is where the book shines. I wish the author had written more respectfully spending more time on his contributions to American history and less time on his family financial struggles and the love between himself and his wife. Blight also doesn’t do enough to provide context for the reader why it was reasonable for a black man despite his notoriety to struggle financially in a country as racist as America. Douglass and his family deserved that respect.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful