Frederick Douglass's Friendships with President Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony

These past few weeks have not been easy on our country. The Internet has turned into a nasty battleground of ideas. People from both sides are fighting and insulting each other rather than starting thoughtful, factual, and constructive dialogues.

President Abraham Lincoln famously said: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." As a historian and what I am observing in both sides, this quote is something we should think about. Everyone is going their own way lately. Let me tell you, history doesn’t go well when everybody starts going their own way and stops considering the argument of others.

Following that line of thought and considering we are observing Black History Month, I found two children's books that showcase friendship and constructive dialogue between historical personages.

The friendship between Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass became what most considered unlikely friends. Both men considered slavery wrong. However, they disagreed on the better path to end it. As a former slave, Douglass was one the most famous abolitionists of his time. Obviously, he wanted slavery to end right away. President Lincoln thought that it would end eventually by making changes step by step. In the end, slavery was abolished by the efforts of both Douglass and President Lincoln, and many other abolitionists and activists.

Illustration by Bryan Collier in Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship.

Children can learn about their friendship in the excellent book Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier. Giovanni and Collier also worked together in the Caldecott Honor-winner Rosa.

The friendship between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony

Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony became friends because they shared ideas about rights. They both believed that black people and women should have the same rights as white men. As a result, they worked together for this cause. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, they founded the American Equal Rights Association, which advocated for the universal right to vote. 

Illustration by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko in Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

Children can learn about their friendship in the wonderful book Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Qualls and Alko worked together also in the amazing book The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. I believe their illustrations are so beautiful in both books.

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