Book Review: Great Americans: Frederick Douglas & Harriet Tubman

Great Americans:  Frederick Douglas, by Barbara Kiely Miller & Great Americans:  Harriet Tubman, by Monica L. Rausch

This review is really a review of two books in one because both of the books were included in the same volume when I looked at it online.  This is not by any means a bad thing, though, as there is a lot to enjoy about a book that includes information about two notable American figures.  These books are aimed at a young audience, and neither of them is very detailed since each of them is only about 25 pages apiece.  Nevertheless, what they do include is certainly interesting and worthwhile to know, since it gives at least the barebones details of what it is expected that children would want to know about these two figures, one of whom has had a recent movie made about her [1].  Both of these people have similar roles within American history, as evidence of how black people themselves were often responsible for changing the opinion that whites in America (and elsewhere) had about blacks based on their own behavior, and the way that both were known for combining an interest in black rights with interests in more rights for women as well, positions that were somewhat radical for their time, at least.

Great Americans:  Frederick Douglass is about 24 page long or so and it is divided into four chapters with other material added on as well.  The book begins in media res with a look at him as a young anti-slavery leader in the 1840’s, powerful as a writer and a speaker among abolitionist crowds.  The author then moves to look at his background in slavery in Maryland (1) and then his eventual escape from slavery (2).  After escaping from slavery he became noted as a voice for freedom (3) and then an adviser to Lincoln and a campaigner for women’s rights before his death in 1895 (4), after which there is a glossary, suggestions for further information, and an index.  Great Americans:  Harriet Tubman is about the same length and is also divided into four chapters with the same sections added on the end.  The author discusses Tubman’s escape to freedom (1) and then her efforts to help other slaves escape (2).  The author discusses the help that Tubman gave to the army during the Civil War (3) and also discusses the author’s life in New York (4), which included her own efforts to campaign for women’s rights.

In some ways, though Douglass and Tubman were complementary figures within the black side of abolitionism.  Douglass gained fame as a speaker and writer, eventually becoming a figure of such importance that he he was able to be seen as an adviser to presidents like Lincoln and Grant.  On the other hand, Tubman was more notable for her actions as a conductor on the underground railroad seeking to free slaves from Maryland and later the South Carolina coast.  Despite this divide, though, both of them are noted as figures whose lives and behaviors have helped to dramatically shape what was thought possible for black Americans.  Whether eloquent in word or deed, eloquence speaks to the common humanity that we share with others even where there is a division between people based on their background or origin.  To be sure, I would think that an adult would want more detailed books about either but this is still worth sharing with younger readers who might not know as much about both of these people as older readers will.  You have to start somewhere when you are looking at books about historical figures and these books are certainly good places to start.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, Book Reviews, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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