Chesnutt's Works





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Another Beacon Biography.

"Frederick Douglass," by Charles W. Chesnutt (Small, Maynard & Co., Boston), is an addition to the "Beacon Biographies," that excellent series of biographical outlines. Like its companion volumes, it is confined closely to a narrative of facts, yet it contrives to wear the heroic atmosphere. Its subject looms larger in history than he did in his own time. He was a remarkable man, but he was not the great man that antislavery writers have made him. The abolitionists in their time were despised and depreciated by everybody else and ever since slavery by its own act put them in the majority they have been taking their revenge by glorifying themselves and depreciating and sneering at everyone else. Douglass has been canonized by them, but he was not the great man they have painted any more than Jefferson Davis was the vicious and truculent blackguard he has been painted. One cannot always be sure even of facts. Thus this book says Douglass was a mulatto, half white and half black, while Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, who has lived all his life in the region where Douglass was born, and ought to know as much about him as anyone can know, in his, "Land of Legendary Lore," a book about the "eastern shore" of Maryland, says flatly, as if it were something about which there could be no dispute, that he was a quadroon, or three-quarters white to one-quarter black. Quien sabe? At all events the outline of his life is to be found here and if with something too much of halo about it one may readily make allowances, as must be done in reading so much other anti-slavery literature.


"Another Beacon Biography." Rev. of Frederick Douglass. In: "Current Literature," The Chicago Chronicle. 25 December. 1899: 5.