Compare And Contrast Lincoln And Frederick Douglass

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Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass are American heroes with each exemplifying a unique aspect of the American spirit. In his recent study, "The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics" (2007), Professor James Oakes traces the intersecting careers of both men, pointing out their initial differences and how their goals and visions ultimately converged. Oakes is Graduate School Humanities Professor and Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has written extensively on the history of slavery in the Old South.

Oakes reminds the reader of how much Lincoln and Douglass originally shared. Lincoln and Douglass were self-made, self-educated, and ambitious, and each rose to success from humble backgrounds. Douglass, of course, was an escaped slave. Douglass certainly and Lincoln most likely detested slavery from his youngest days. But Lincoln from his young manhood was a consummate politician devoted to compromise, consensus-building, moderation and indirection. Douglass was a reformer who spoke and wrote eloquently and with passion for the abolition of slavery
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His accounts of the complex events leading to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation are particularly lucid. Oakes argues that Lincoln had surreptitiously delivered the death blow to slavery by the end of 1861. As to Douglass, I learned a great deal from Oakes's discussion of his three autobiographies, written in 1845, 1855, and 1881 (edited, 1891) and of how these works document the change of Douglass from reformer to an instance of the American success story. Oakes also describes well and detail a chilling meeting between Douglass and other African American leaders and President Andrew Johnson in which Douglass unsuccessfully tried to persuade Johnson to extend the right to vote to African
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