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For the thoughtful reader, to read the writings of Frederick Douglass is to love them. Thus any biographer of Douglass confronts formidable competition: for sheer power of language and forcefulness of style the biographer has trouble competing with Douglass himself as an attraction to the uninitiated reader. In other words, this new book by Gregory Lampe is not the place to start for a reader unfamiliar with Douglass's writings.
Nor is it meant to be: it is designed for the specialist, scholars of rhetoric or of American history - groups to whom two out of the three blurbs on the back cover recommend it. For such an audience, for the reader already familiar with the three versions of Douglass's autobiographies and with the standard five volume Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass ed.
Philip Foner, and who has become entranced enough to want a closer look, this book can be recommended, along with others. They would include the exhaustive Yale University Press collection, edited by John Blassingame and others The Frederick Douglass Papers, , a projected fourteen-volume series of which several volumes are already in print , and the several biographies of Douglass that are now available see the list in Lampe's ample bibliography.
Lampe's look at the first 27 years of the life of Frederick Douglass has a dual focus: he is interested, first, in understanding as fully as possible Frederick Douglass, Freedom's Voice: Author: Leslie Friedman Goldstein. This work in the MSU Press Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series chronicles Frederick Douglass's preparation for a career in oratory, his emergence as an abolitionist lecturer in , and his development and activities as a public speaker and reformer from to Lampe's meticulous scholarship overturns much of the conventional wisdom about this phase of Douglass's life and career uncovering new information about his experiences as a slave and as a fugitive; it provokes a deeper and richer understanding of this renowned orator's emergence as an important voice in the crusade to end slavery.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Douglass was well prepared to become a full-time lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in His emergence as an eloquent voice from slavery was not as miraculous as scholars have led us to believe.
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Lampe begins by tracing Douglass's life as slave in Maryland and as fugitive in New Bedford, showing that experiences gained at this time in his life contributed powerfully to his understanding of rhetoric and to his development as an orator. An examination of his daily oratorical activities from the time of his emergence in Nantucket in until his departure for England in dispels many conventional beliefs surrounding this period, especially the belief that Douglass was under the wing of William Lloyd Garrison.
Lampe's research shows that Douglass was much more outspoken and independent than previously thought and that at times he was in conflict with white abolitionists.