Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 45.
- Review Date: 2007-11-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Paul Kendrick, assistant director of the Harlem Children’s Zoo, and his father, Stephen, a Boston minister (coauthors of Sarah’s Long Walk, about Boston’s free blacks) give a thorough look at two unlikely allies. Lincoln began as a white supremacist who saw Douglass as an exception to the rule of black inferiority. What is more, his first priority was the preservation of the Union. The onetime slave Douglass, on the other hand, stood uncompromisingly for complete emancipation, to be followed by full and equal citizenship. He further held that the Civil War’s massive carnage could only be redeemed by the annihilation of the “peculiar institution.” Despite their mutual respect, the two men had only three face-to-face meetings, just two of these in private. Thus, this study of Douglass, Lincoln and their “relationship” is chiefly a discussion of evolving rhetoric, primarily Lincoln’s on such topics as emancipation, black service in the Union ranks and black suffrage, and how his views initially contrasted with, but were eventually influenced by, Douglass’s fiery arguments in public speeches and newspaper editorials. This is a workmanlike narrative of the same story recently explored by James Oakes in his critically praised The Radical and the Republican. 23 b&w photos. (Feb.)
The revolutionary and the president
Though they only met in person three times, each encounter between former slave turned outspoken freedom fighter Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln was monumental. Perhaps the biggest surprise in Douglass and Lincoln, the latest work of father-and-son team Paul and Stephen Kendrick, is how much influence Douglass is credited with having on Lincoln, whose major goal in the Civil War was always saving the Union. The authors document specific instances where Lincoln's responsiveness to abolitionist sentiments was altered after reading various Douglass letters and speeches. In turn, Douglass' views about Lincoln were equally affected by things he heard and saw coming from the president. Despite not agreeing on every issue, the two men eventually forged a common ground regarding the necessity for a Northern victory and the ultimate emancipation of the slaves. How they reached that point, as well as other intriguing insights and events that resulted from or were affected by their meetings, is illuminated and outlined in Douglass and Lincoln.