"Superb....[A] richly researched, passionately written book."--William E. Cain, Boston Globe
Widely acknowledged as the definitive history of the era, Henry Mayer's National Book Award finalist biography of William Lloyd Garrison brings to life one of the most significant American abolitionists. Extensively researched and exquisitely nuanced, the political and social climate of Garrison's times and his achievements appear here in all their prophetic brilliance. Finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the J. Anthony Lucas Book Prize, winner of the Commonwealth Club Silver Prize for Nonfiction.
Dead for almost 120 years, Garrison (1805-1879) tends to be caricatured in U.S. history books, if he's mentioned at all. That caricature shows a single-issue fanatic who had right on his side but possibly did more harm than good by agitating abolitionists and slavery advocates alike. Garrison was raised largely by his mother, a Baptist who marched "through life with `high views' of its duties, and with the firmness of a Christian soldier." For her son, once roused by the Quaker Benjamin Lundy to the evils of slavery, there could be no compromise. There must be complete, immediate emancipation grounded in the U.S. Constitution. Anything less would cheapen human life and national dignity. Mayer's triumph is to show Garrison as a complicated human being, a fanatic to be sure, but one with a devoted family, a sense of humor and a brilliance of mind unexpected of one with so little formal education. Mayer, an independent historian living in Berkeley, Calif., and author of a biography of Patrick Henry (Son of Thunder), has done impressive research, especially in his use of Garrison's Boston-based newspaper, the Liberator, to explain its editor. The writing is first rate, and Mayer bucks contemporary trends by both his relentless adherence to chronology and his generous assessment of his subject. Few historians make the past more accessible than Mayer has.