Michael Patrick Brady


Giants: Douglass and Lincoln | John Stauffer

November 18, 2008
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My review of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer was published today at PopMatters.

I wasn’t blown away by this book. It falls short of justifying itself as a dual biography, seeming unbalanced between the intriguing and engaging sections on Douglass and the surprisingly tedious chapters on Lincoln. Aspects of Lincoln’s personal life are sketched in sharper detail than his political life. Nevertheless, there is quality material here, it just takes some sifting.

Were the book split into two separate narratives (or maybe were the two alternating stories in the book integrated a little better), it might make for more compelling, less herky-jerky reading.

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  • 1. Herbert L. Calhoun  |  December 1st, 2008 at 7:20 pm


    Couldn’t agree more. In many ways it was the worse of both worlds: In trying to “force parallels” between the two, a great deal was left out of the lives of both. It was an interesting try, but ultimately an overall mediocre effort. This, in the end was a lot less than the sum of the parts, but who else noticed?

  • 2. Andrew  |  May 17th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Does anyone who might look at this know if anywhere in the book it talks directly about how Douglass influenced Lincoln? Especially on the topic of slavery abolition?

  • 3. mpb  |  May 18th, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I haven’t read it, but I think The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics might be what you’re looking for. Where Giants was more concerned with the personal lives of Douglass and Lincoln, this book is focused on their interactions with regards to abolition.