History, it has often been said, is as much a story of individual people as it is of places, events and larger circumstances. This is especially true when considering pivotal figures from American history, for in the stories of pivotal historical figures, the saga of the growth of America can often be seen. Such is the case with first lady, political activist and women’s rights pioneer Abigail Adams and former American slave, orator and anti-slavery advocate Frederick Douglass.
It is with these two prominent historic figures in mind that two historical books about them, Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave will be discussed. Upon conclusion of the research, not only will two historical icons be better understood, but also, two key works about these people will be as well. Main Character of Each Work As was mentioned in the Introduction to this paper, two historical books as well as the people who were the main characters of those books would be discussed.
Understanding the books first requires an understanding of the backgrounds of each of these main characters respectively. Abigail Adams, for all of the achievements that her life would hold, was not the product of fine universities or finishing schools; rather, she was for the most part an educated woman, and someone who possessed a great deal of inner drive and instinct, which more than made up for the lack of formal education.
The wife of John Adams, who was a founding father of the United States and would eventually become president of the nation, Abigail managed the family farm, took care of the children, and showed a great streak of independence while John, early in his political career, was compelled to travel internationally. Abigail shared her husband’s passion for American independence, with one glaring exception- she did not subscribe to the idea that all men were created equal. For Abigail, there certainly was room to tolerate slavery, but this is not to say that Abigail felt the same about gender issues.
One could fairly classify Abigail as a feminist, which she continued to advocate when she accompanied her husband to the White House. Overall, while not perfect, Abigail Adams contributed a great deal to the cause of women’s rights and by some accounts, aided her husband significantly during his presidency (Withey). Like Abigail Adams, Frederick Douglass was not the most formally educated man, but through sheer determination and a high level of natural intelligence, in time became one of the most articulate men in America, slave or free (Douglass).
Early evidence of Douglass’ yearning for freedom and equality in a nation which promised this but only delivered to select races can be seen in his escape from slavery and refuge in northern free territory as a young man. This escape not only allowed him to pursue his own destiny, but also allowed him to seek the same for every man, with the abolition of slavery as Douglass’ main ambition. In fact, it was Douglass’ personal experience as a slave which gave him the credibility and passion that he required in order to be able to see the abolition of slavery to completion.
Historical Events that Involved the Main Characters of Each Work When comparing Adams and Douglass, it can fairly be said that each of them were similarly exposed to extraordinary circumstances that inspired them to action, while being impaired to a certain extent by limitations that society attempted to place on them. In both cases as well, each of these individuals used that adversity not as a roadblock to future progress, but as a catapult to bigger and better things.
Abigail Adams entered the stage of American history at a time when the role of the president as well as first lady was far from well defined, as well as a time when women were largely regarded as subordinates to their husbands and not worthy of equal opportunities or education. In the midst of all of these circumstances, Adams devoted a great deal of her energies in assisting her husband-some say too much- in the duties of the presidency and set the protocol for first ladies to come. Also, Adams chose as her cause the equality of women in all areas of society, making her an early pioneer for women’s equality.
Like Adams, Frederick Douglass came upon the American scene at a time when pivotal issues were still undecided; for all of the talk of liberty and justice for all, Douglass had to flee from an environment whereby he was owned, like property, by another human being, as were tens of thousands of other African-Americans. Also, Douglass fearlessly spoke out against the evils of slavery, and became an influential resource for none other than Abraham Lincoln, who would become known in history as The Great Emancipator.