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Young Frederick Douglass

, 304 pages

9 b&w illus., 1 map

June 2018



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Young Frederick Douglass


Drawing on previously untapped sources, Young Frederick Douglass recreates with fidelity and in convincing detail the background and early life of the man who was to become "the gadfly of America’s conscience" and the undisputed spokesman for nineteenth-century black Americans.

With a new foreword by renowned Douglass scholar David W. Blight, Dickson J. Preston’s highly regarded biography traces the life and times of Frederick Douglass from his birth on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1818 until 1838, when he escaped from slavery to emerge upon the national scene. Astounding his white contemporaries with his oratorical brilliance and intellectual capabilities, Douglass dared to challenge the doctrine of white supremacy on its own grounds. At the time of Douglass’s death in 1895, one eulogist wrote that he was probably the best-known American throughout the world since Abraham Lincoln.

Dickson J. Preston (1914–1985) worked for more than thirty years as a newspaper reporter and editor. He lived in Talbot County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, not far from the birthplace of Frederick Douglass. David W. Blight is the Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.

"Provides an enormous amount of new information and thorough documentation."

"A model of historiographic detective work, this engaging study reveals some things about Douglass's background that he did not know himself."

"Biography at its best, bolstered by impressive bits of historical detective work."

"Describing from local documents the setting and society in which the runaway rebel grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and in Baltimore, Preston presents Douglass's family roots and the persons around him from his birth in 1818 until his escape in 1838. Throughout he shows what lay behind the spectacular rise of the slave boy into a free and world-famous man."

"Preston has given us in this major biography a more three-dimensional, a more human Frederick Douglass.... [His] remarkably thorough documentation now makes every other account of the first quarter of Douglass's life either suspect or inaccurate."