This week, I am under the impression, for some reason, that lots of folks are searching for information on Frederick Douglass: Who was Frederick Douglass? What did he do that was so important? How did he earn a place in the new Smithsonian African-American history museum?
If you’re a parent or educator, this is a good opportunity to rush to your local library, Amazon, or your local bookstore. Then check out the brand new biography picture book, Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, by the late Walter Dean Myers.
The bestselling Newbery Honor winner has posthumously gifted us with another standout book for children. This time, he details the life of of the early civil rights pioneer, from self-educated slave to iconic abolitionist, brilliant orator, prolific author, and social reformer whose actions eventually lead to the incorporation of black soldiers into the Union Army and the defeat of the Confederacy.
The combination of relatable but informative prose plus striking illustrations from Coretta Scott King Award Winner Floyd Cooper had my own kids utterly captivated right from descriptions of Douglass’s early life as a slave.
For a 9-year-old American child today to see why a 9-year-old Frederick Douglass was prohibited something as basic as reading — and just how hard he worked to circumvent that rule — creates the kind of relatability and empathy that helps turn historical figures into the role models kids hold onto in life. And that’s something I think really good biographies manage to do.
But it’s no less compelling to read about his life in later years. Especially his challenging journey up north, his essential involvement in a dangerous plot to raid the arsenals at Harper’s Ferry, and his help in convincing President Lincoln to allow black soldiers to fight for the Union in the Civil War — a decision that undoubtedly contributed to the defeat of the confederacy. And of course, the legal end of slavery.
There is one detail about his life I wish had been included (because it’s always stood out to me) which is that Douglass’s oratory skills were so impressive, it served as invaluable evidence in correcting the false narrative throughout the nation that black people were not smart enough to be able to function and thrive as free individuals.
But hey, think of the book as a jumping off point that may inspire your kids to seek out even more information about this incredible icon of American history.
And while Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, was indeed created for kids, I’d say it should be a staple on the shelves of school libraries and private homes everywhere. Maybe even a big white house right in the heart of Washington DC.
Find the recently released Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers and Floyd Cooper from our affiliate Amazon or your local library.