David W. Blight - book author
David W. Blight is 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. He is the author or editor of a dozen books, including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; and annotated editions of Douglass’s first two autobiographies. He has worked on Douglass much of his professional life, and been awarded the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize, among others.
David W. Blight is the author of books: Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory, Beyond the Battlefield, Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee, A People and a Nation, The Souls of Black Folk and Clotel: by W.E.B. Du Bois
Blight's sweeping narrative of triumph and tragedy, romance and realism, is a compelling tale of the politics of memory, of how a nation healed from civil war without justice. By the early twentieth century, the problems of race and reunion were locked in mutual dependence, a painful legacy that continues to haunt us today.
Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. After the war he sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights.
In this biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers.
David Blight takes his readers back to the centennial celebration to determine how Americans then made sense of the suffering, loss, and liberation that had wracked the United States a century earlier. Amid cold war politics and civil rights protest, four of America's most incisive writers explored the gulf between remembrance and reality. Robert Penn Warren, the southern-reared poet-novelist who recanted his support of segregation; Bruce Catton, the journalist and U.S. Navy officer who became a popular Civil War historian; Edmund Wilson, the century's preeminent literary critic; and James Baldwin, the searing African-American essayist and activist--each exposed America's triumphalist memory of the war. And each, in his own way, demanded a reckoning with the tragic consequences it spawned.
Blight illuminates not only mid-twentieth-century America's sense of itself but also the dynamic, ever-changing nature of Civil War memory. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the war, we have an invaluable perspective on how this conflict continues to shape the country's political debates, national identity, and sense of purpose.
Published on the occasion of the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Passages to Freedom brings home the reality of slavery's destructiveness. This distinguished yet accessible volume offers a galvanizing look at how the brave journey out of slavery both haunts and inspires us today.
The book as a whole demonstrates several ways to probe the history of memory, to understand how and why groups of Americans have constructed versions of the past in the service of contemporary social needs. Topics range from the writing and thought of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to a comparison of Abraham Lincoln and Douglass on the level of language and memory. The volume also includes a compelling study of the values of a single Union soldier, an analysis of Ken Burns's PBS series The Civil War, and a retrospective treatment of the distinguished African American historian Nathan I. Huggins.
Taken together, these lucidly written pieces offer a thoroughgoing assessment of the stakes of Civil War memory and their consequences for American race relations. Beyond the Battlefield demonstrates not only why we should preserve and study our Civil War battlefields, but also why we should lift our vision above those landscapes and ponder all the unfinished questions of healing and justice, of racial harmony and disharmony, that still bedevil our society and our historical imagination.