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Slavery

“Prophet of Freedom” Illuminates Frederick Douglass

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2018 marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass, and we now have the first major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon and Schuster) by prize-winning historian and Yale Professor David Blight is based on nearly a lifetime of research as well as letters and private documentation to which no biographer has previously had access. It’s this revealing collection that helped shed new light on Douglass, particularly in the latter third of his life. Professor Blight recently sat down with Roxanne to discuss the book the New York Times Book Review called “cinematic and deeply engaging” about how Douglass escaped slavery, then went from a boy trading bread for spelling lessons to one of the…

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“Washington Black” Paints a Fresh Slave Narrative

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With history, science and creativity, Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black (Knopf) tells the story of an 11-year-old slave in Barbados and his adventurous escape to freedom.  Washington Black, or Wash, brought up in the sugar cane fields, experienced more than his share of oppression, suffering and abuse. When the slave master’s brother, Titch, visits the plantation and asks for the boy to be loaned to him, an unusual friendship and reliance develops between the two. Growing up among brutal violence, Wash finds Titch to be a father figure. Titch is an abolitionist at heart and although he is focused on his scientific discovery of a flying machine, he provides an opportunity for Wash as he teaches him to read and nurture his…

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Review: ‘The Underground Railroad’ is the Best Book of the Year — Maybe the Decade

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Decades before the Civil War, a slave woman named Cora risks her life and runs off a cotton plantation in Georgia. Colson Whitehead’s hero in The Underground Railroad is afraid to take a gamble on so much until she realizes she wouldn’t be risking that much to begin with. Being a slave is not a life anyone would want to live; her livelihood is no livelihood at all. In bondage, Cora merely exists. She must take that ultimate risk: liberty or death. In his novel, Whitehead successfully gets to the heart of how slavery reduces a person to a point beyond recoverable humanity with this masterful, weaving tale of America’s nefarious past. Blending history with fictional innovation, Whitehead breathes life…

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