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Giant's Causeway

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About the Author

Tom Chaffin is Research Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA for which he directs the multi-volume series Correspondence of James K. Polk. He lives in Atlanta and is the author of, among other books, Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah and Pathfinder: John Charles Fremont and the Course of American Empire.


Deeply compelling... excellent writing and first-rate scholarship. --Journal of American History By connecting the plight of the irish to that of African-American slaves, Chaffin provides a much more complete understanding of how Ireland and the struggle of its people impacted Douglass's abolitionist politics....This book is enthusiastically recommeneded for readers who enjoy detailed biographies. --Civil War News As Chaffin skillfully renders the details of Douglass's Irish sojourn, he does not stray from the dellcate circumstances that his subject was forced to navigate. As such, Chaffin's text moves well beyond a simple chronological accounting... Chaffin is at his best when he illuminates circumstances surrounding Douglass's Irish lectures and travel that will intrigue even those familiar with the story. He has dug deep into the archives, including correspondence, newspaper accounts, and other primary documents, to flesh out all that was happening to Douglass. --Journal of the Civil War Era [A] richly informative biographical account of Frederick Douglass's life and times from an unusual and thought-provoking angle. --Journal of Southern History [A] delightful transatlantic study of Frederick Douglass's travels to Ireland and the British Isles.... Chaffin deftly argues that Douglass's encounter with Irish politics helped to shape his own politics, leading to his eventual break with the Garrisonians. The study is well researched, drawing on letters, journals, and newspaper accounts, and the writing brings these figures to life, presenting Douglass in all his complexities. [Recommended] --CHOICE Although a large portion of the book focuses on Douglass's travels through Ireland, Chaffin rightly takes time to examine Douglass's journey within the context of the ongoing debates over slavery and abolitionism in the United States. Chaffin's contribution is notable because he analyzes a particular period in Douglass's early life and links it to the great man's subsequent career. --Antony W. Keane-Dawes "JAAH Volume 102, No 1 " A vivid social and intellectual history of Douglass's Irish, Scottish and British travels, and of their influence throughout his life....Clear-eyed and sympathetic, showing the way Douglass walked the tightrope of Irish sectarianism as he stayed understandably focused on the cause of building support for abolitionism. He comes across as sensible and pragmatic; proud and prickly, a warm-hearted friend and an imposing enemy. --Joan Walsh "Salon " For those familiar with Douglass, this book will add to their knowledge and admiration. For others, it will provide a great introduction to this marvelous man. --Julian Bond With the learning and literary style his readers have come to expect, Tom Chaffin, in Giant's Causeway, has provided the definitive account of Frederick Douglass's travels in Great Britain and Ireland. There, America's greatest champion of liberty told his story, and developed his politics in an extended confrontation with the terrible suffering, frequent racism, and political potential of the world's first industrial working class. --Walter Johnson, Harvard University, author of River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom Douglass's time in Ireland was pivotal in his subsequent development as a leading proponent not just of abolition but of human rights. Giant's Causeway is extremely well written and engaging, a ground-breaking study of this important figure. --Christine Kinealy, Quinnipiac University, author of This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52 Frederick Douglass's four months in Ireland, and a lifetime of complex relationships with Irish people, changed him forever. Tom Chaffin has captured this story from 1845-46 with marvelous research and narrative flair. With richness of detail and an unsurpassed sense of place, Chaffin brings this turn in Douglass's saga into our own world as no one else ever has. This is important scholarship and a splendid read. --David W. Blight, Yale University, and author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

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