Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) is best known for the telling of his own emancipation. But there is much more to Douglass’s story than his time spent enslaved and his famous autobiography. Facing Frederick captures the whole complicated, and at times perplexing, person that he was. Statesman, suffragist, writer, and newspaperman, this book focuses on Douglass the man rather than the historical icon.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence
Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. Most folks know Frederick Douglass as an escaped slave turned abolitionist. Bolden’s insightful and impeccably researched biography reveals, instead, a multifaceted man who would travel many paths and constantly redefine himself. And instead of commencing with Douglass’ life as a slave, as many biographies do, this account begins after his escape, as he becomes one of the most in-demand speakers for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and launches his place in history as a great orator against the “twin monsters of darkness,” slavery and racism. It balances Douglass’ personal and financial successes and accolades with his frustrations, controversies, and setbacks, which only encouraged him to question the Constitution and fight harder for freedom, racial justice, and women’s suffrage. Framing the biography are more than a dozen photographs of Douglass from his early twenties to just before his death at age 77, with a note explaining his love for photography, because of its democratizing quality. Many other period photographs, colorful reproductions, and quotes from the media of the time add to the impressive visuals. Author, newspaper owner, lecturer, Underground Railroad conductor, Union army recruiter, abolitionist, and presidential campaigner are just some of Douglass’ roles described here. Bolden’s beautiful, sophisticated narrative demonstrates that throughout all of his responsibilities, Douglass never lost sight of his biggest role—humanitarian.
Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2017)
The story of one of the most iconic and photographed figures in American history.Frederick Douglass wanted to be viewed as more than an escaped slave, and Bolden emphasizes that point by beginning his story when he makes the decision to break with abolitionist publisher William Lloyd Garrison to begin his own newspaper. Douglass’ history is nevertheless revealed as he contemplates changing his course. In his paper, the North Star, he pressed for an end to slavery and was outspoken in favor of women’s suffrage. Once the nation’s struggles between freedom and slavery led to armed conflict, he pushed President Abraham Lincoln to allow black men to fight in the Union cause. After the Civil War, Douglass remained tireless in seeking to improve the lives of African-Americans until the end of his life. This narrative about a well-known figure feels fresh due to Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with Garrison, his refusal to support efforts to colonize blacks outside of the United States, and his reservations about John Brown’s raid. Complications in his personal life are handled with sensitivity. In addition, Douglass was a celebrity at the dawn of photography and became the era’s most photographed figure, and this handsome volume includes many, as well as period illustrations. A spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject. (author’s note, timeline, source notes, selected sources, index) (Biography. 10-14)
About the Author
Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolden attended Princeton University in New Jersey, and, in 1981, obtained her B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. Bolden was also a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize.
Upon graduating from Princeton University, Bolden began working as a salesperson for Charles Alan, Incorporated, a dress manufacturer, while working towards her M.A. degree at Columbia University. In 1985, Bolden earned her degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute; after this she began working as an office coordinator for Raoulfilm, Inc., assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. Bolden worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources while serving as newsletter editor of the HARKline, a homeless shelter newsletter.
In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want To Sing along with Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical. Bolden continued publishing throughout the 1990s, releasing Starting a Business from your Home, Mail-Order and Direct Response, The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm and The Champ. Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, in 1998. Bolden’s writing career became even more prolific in the following decade; a partial list of her works include:, Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, MLK: Journey of a King, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II, and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.
Her website is www.tonyaholdenbooks.com.
Collection of Frederick Douglass Lesson Plans
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