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Description - Giants by John Stauffer

They were the pre-eminent self-made men of their time. Abraham Lincoln was born dirt poor, had less than one year of formal schooling and became the nation's greatest President. Frederick Douglass spent the first twenty years of his life as a slave, had no formal schooling - his masters forbade him to read or write - and became one of the nation's greatest writers and activists. At a time when most whites would not let a black man cross their threshold, Lincoln met Douglass three times at the White House. Their friendship was based on usefulness: Lincoln recognised that he needed Douglass to help him destroy the Confederacy and preserve the Union; Douglass realised that Lincoln's shrewd sense of public opinion would serve his own goal of freeing the nation's blacks.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780446580090
ISBN-10: 0446580090
Format: Hardback
(235mm x 162mm x 34mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Grand Central Publishing
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publish Date: 4-Dec-2008
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Giants by John Stauffer

Book Reviews - Giants by John Stauffer

US Kirkus Review » A dual biography highlighting the remarkable similarities and the crucial differences between "the two pre-eminent self-made men in American history."The interest in linking Lincoln and Douglass has never been greater - see, for example, Paul and Stephen Kendrick's Douglass and Lincoln (2008) and James Oakes's The Radical and the Republican (2007) - and surely the intertwined careers of both men support continuing efforts to understand their combined, enduring impact. In five double-barreled chapters focusing on comparable stages in each man's life, Stauffer (History of American Civilization and English/Harvard Univ.; The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race, 2002, etc.) explains how Douglass the slave and Lincoln the frontiersman emerged from a culture of poverty, ignorance and violence to international renown. Both were physically imposing; both abstained from tobacco and alcohol at a time when few men did. Both were poetry lovers - they had Robert Burns in common - and both were unsuitably married, Douglass to an illiterate, Lincoln to a termagant. A naturally talented orator, Douglass worked to perfect his writing. Always a good, later a great writer (and a superb editor), Lincoln slowly emerged as an effective public speaker. Addressing public issues, Douglass decided quickly and frequently changed strategies. Lincoln always made up his mind slowly, but then rarely reversed course. Douglass, the radical, never befriended an enemy until after converting that man to his cause. Lincoln, the conciliator, believed that "if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend." Notwithstanding calculated, public statements by Lincoln and Douglass, Stauffer goes too far in claiming "an interracial friendship." The author is also oddly willing to speculate broadly on Lincoln's premarital sexual history, and unwilling to reciprocate when it comes to Douglass's extramarital relations. Despite these lapses, Stauffer's dexterous interweaving of biographical detail makes for enjoyable reading and serves as a useful introduction to understanding the dynamic between two 19th-century giants.A frequently insightful look at the makeup of two men who helped remake the country. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - John Stauffer

John Stauffer is Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. He has spent years studying Douglass and Lincoln and he has won two prizes and been runner-up in another for his books.

Books By John Stauffer

Portable Frederick Douglass, by John Stauffer
Paperback, July 2016
Pathfinder by John Stauffer
Paperback, January 2016
Picturing Frederick Douglass by John Stauffer
Hardback, November 2015