Frederick Douglass

Self-Made Man

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Hey, what better way to mark Black History Month (yes, they still call it that) than with Timothy Sandefur's biography of Frederic Douglass? It's short, 119 pages of text, and to the point. Published by the Cato Institute.

Why, you may ask, is it published by the Cato Institute? Well, the primary theme of the book is explicating Douglass's classical liberalism, his devotion to individualism and the U. S. Constitution.

But the biographical details are gripping enough too: Douglass was born a slave in 1818 Easton, Maryland, probably the result of the plantation's overseer's dalliance with his mother. Against all odds, he learned to read. And he grew to hate his enslaved status. As a young man, he escaped servitude by going north, winding up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, later moving up to Lynn. He became a preacher, an orator, and eventually an anti-slavery activist, initially under the wing of William Lloyd Garrison. But there was bit of friction between their anti-slavery ideologies, and eventually Douglass came out fully on his own.

Sandefur does a fine job of depicting Douglass's life, and the horror of slavery. Followed, after the Civil War, by Reconstruction and its ugly devolution into more oppression. For the full story, you'd probably want to go to this full Pulitzer-winning bio by David W. Blight. 913 pages, according to Amazon. Maybe next February.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT