Douglass and Lincoln
How a Revolutionary Black Leader & a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery & Save the Union
Publication Date: December 26, 2007
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Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had only three meetings, but their exchanges profoundly influenced the course of slavery and the outcome of the Civil War.
Although Abraham Lincoln deeply opposed the institution of slavery, he saw the Civil War at its onset as being primarily about preserving the Union. Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, by contrast saw the War's mission to be the total and permanent abolition of slavery. And yet, these giants of the nineteenth century, despite their different outlooks, found common ground, in large part through their three historic meetings.
Lincoln first invited Douglass to the White House in August 1862. Well-known for his speeches and his internationally read abolitionist newspaper, Douglass laid out for the president his concerns about how the Union army was discriminating against black soldiers. Douglass, often critical of the president in his speeches and articles, was impressed by Lincoln's response. The following summer when the war was going poorly, the president summoned Douglass to the White House. Fearing that he might not be reelected, Lincoln showed Douglass a letter he had prepared stating his openness to negotiating a settlement to end the Civil War--and leave slavery intact in the South. Douglass strongly advised Lincoln against making the letter public. Lincoln never did; Atlanta fell and he was reelected. Their final meeting was at the White House reception following Lincoln's second inaugural address, where Lincoln told Douglass there was no man in the country whose opinion he valued more and Douglass called the president's inaugural address "sacred."
In elegant prose and with unusual insights, Paul and Stephen Kendrick chronicle the parallel lives of Douglass and Lincoln as a means of presenting a fresh, unique picture of two men who, in their differences, eventually challenged each other to greatness and altered the course of the nation.
Paul Kendrick is a Presidential Arts Scholar at George Washington University. His father Stephen Kendrick is the senior minister of First and Second Church in Boston. They are the authors of Sarah's Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America.
"[T]he Kendricks have done wonderful work exploring one of the most complex and important relationships in American history."—Chuck Leddy, Christian Science Monitor
"Since emancipation and its aftermath prompt divergent interpretations of Lincoln, the Kendricks’ fluid account of Douglass’ influence reliably lays a factual foundation for debaters about this momentous passage in American history."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"The Kendricks beautifully assess the political and moral, and often conflicting, agendas of each man, but they excel, particularly in their treatment of Douglass, at personalizing one of the history's most unlikely and effective political allies...A wise and sensitive appreciation of the intersecting careers of two giants of American history."—Kirkus Reviews
"Filled with passion and intrigue, Douglass and Lincoln vividly brings to life an unlikely partnership that will grow to epitomize the transformation of a nation. This captivating double portrait illuminates both figures, often in surprising ways."—Forrest Church, author of So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State
"The Kendricks have done it again! Here is important history, well written and well told. They have given us the eyes of Frederick Douglass to see Abraham Lincoln without the martyrdom and the Civil War without the mythology. Intimate, accurate, and thoughtful, Douglass and Lincoln should be the starting place for anyone wishing to understand how Northern blacks saw the political turmoil of the 1850s and the Civil War.”—Donald Yacovone, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University
“Douglass and Lincoln transports you back into the private meetings, debate halls and violent clashes that gripped our nation as it wrestled with the question of how to end slavery while preserving a fragile union. It's a compelling book of history, as well as a great read for those learning to be leaders who make history.”—Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)