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John Stauffer  

Acclaimed Historian

John Stauffer is chair of the History of American Civilization and Professor of English at Harvard University. His first book, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Harvard University Press, 2002) was co-winner of the 2002 Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the winner of the Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians and the runner-up for the Lincoln Prize.

According to Stauffer, his most recent book, Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, "began in 2005 as an essay on Douglass and Lincoln in the July 4th issue of TIME. Initially, I planned to include the essay as part of a book on interracial friendship, but their story, I realized, was bigger than an essay or chapter."

Published the same year as Lincoln's Bicentennial as well as Barack Obama's historical win of the Presidency, Stauffer views the two as closely tied. "Obama's journey, like Douglass and Lincoln's, has been nothing short of breathtaking. Perhaps it is not coincidental that he knows Douglass and Lincoln better than many scholars, has steeped himself in their writings, and has been inspired by them. While many journalists have noted the influence of Lincoln on Obama, none has shown how Douglass shaped his understanding of himself and his country."

At the podium, Stauffer explores the relationship between Lincoln and Douglas and how these two men have influenced President Barack Obama. He also explains why the "Civil War" isn't truly over and how Lincoln is too commonly misunderstood, deemed "born great" when in actuality he was born poor and worked hard to achieve "greatness."

"John Stauffer's collective biography of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln stands apart from other biographies by focusing on how each man continually remade himself, with help from women, words, self-education, physical strength, and luck. In the process Stauffer gives us the texture and feel-a 'thick description' -of the strange worlds that Douglass and Lincoln inhabited." - Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


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