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Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln

by John Stauffer

They were the preeminent self-made men of their time. Abraham Lincoln was born dirt poor, had less than one year of formal schooling, and became the nation's greatest President. Frederick Douglass spent the first 20 years of his life as a slave, had no formal schooling - his masters forbade him to read or write - and became one of the nation's greatest writers and activists. At a time when most whites would not let a black man cross their threshold, Lincoln met Douglass three times at the White House and invited him to tea at the Soldier's Home. Their friendship was based on usefulness: Lincoln recognized that he needed Douglass to help him destroy the Confederacy and preserve the Union; Douglass realized that Lincoln's shrewd sense of public opinion would serve his own goal of freeing the nation's blacks. They were ambitious men, and had great faith in the moral and technological progress of their nation. They also shared many common interests: They loved music and literature, and educated themselves by reading the same books. They were athletic, strong and tall: Douglass was 6 ft., Lincoln 6 ft. 4 inches, when the average height for men was 5 ft. 7 inches. Lincoln and Douglass moved beyond the traditional idea of character as fixed and based primarily on heredity and social status, and embraced a self in state of continual evolution. Award-winning historian John Stauffer describes the dramatic transformations in the lives of these giants during a a major shift in cultural history, when men rejected the status quo and embraced new ideals of personal liberty.

The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded from the Confederacy

by Sally Jenkins John Stauffer

New York Times bestselling author Sally Jenkins and distinguished Harvard professor John Stauffer mine a nearly forgotten piece of Civil War history and strike gold in this surprising account of the only Southern county to secede from the Confederacy. The State of Jones is a true story about the South during the Civil War - the realSouth. Not the South that has been mythologized in novels and movies, but an authentic, hardscrabble place where poor men were forced to fight a rich man's war for slavery and cotton. In Jones County, Mississippi, a farmer named Newton Knight led his neighbors, white and black alike, in an insurrection against the Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. Knight's life story mirrors the little-known story of class struggle in the South - and it shatters the image of the Confederacy as a unified front against the Union. This riveting investigative account takes us inside the battle of Corinth, where thousands lost their lives over less than a quarter mile of land, and to the dreadful siege of Vicksburg, presenting a gritty picture of a war in which generals sacrificed thousands through their arrogance and ignorance. Off the battlefield, the Newton Knight story is rich in drama as well. He was a man with two loves: his wife, who was forced to flee her home simply to survive, and an ex-slave named Rachel, who, in effect, became his second wife. It was Rachel who cared for Knight during the war when he was hunted by the Confederates, and, later, when members of the Knight clan sought revenge for the disgrace he had brought upon the family name. Working hand in hand with John Stauffer, distinguished chair and professor of the History of American Civilization at Harvard University, Sally Jenkins has made the leap from preeminent sportswriter to a historical writer endowed with the accuracy, drive, and passion of Doris Kearns Goodwin. The result is Civil War history at its finest.

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