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‘The Life of Frederick Douglass:’ Advance Graphic Novel Review

In my ever-expanding quest to increase my knowledge of American history, I was intrigued when the graphic novel, The Life of Frederick Douglass, became available for review. Frederick Douglass is an iconic and almost mythological figure in our history and one whose personal life and story I knew very little of. Fortunately for us, Damon Walker has written an engrossing and informative biography which includes original photographs of Mr. Douglass as part of the bonus material.

In the introduction, Mr. Walker discusses his extensive research and different approaches to the project. He decided to write the story in the first person, and I agree that it allows the reader to drop into the life of Mr. Douglass in a more personal way. It is heart-rendering to watch his innocence as a young child stripped away the moment he realized his life was not his own. It is a painful and devastating moment that is executed very well. Using Mr. Douglass’s speeches, autobiographies (He wrote three.), and other resource material, we are taken on his journey from a slave to a free man that reflects the complex person he was, as well as the men and women he dealt with. From Harriet Tubman to Abraham Lincoln to John Brown, all of the men and women are presented as flawed human beings who each had a vision of a better America, but advocated different paths to end slavery.

I was not terribly enthusiastic about the art when I first thumbed through the book. Art is subjective, and my tastes differ from other people; however, as I read the book, I realized the strong brush strokes and lack of detail in some instances were not so much a flaw, but served to emphasize the subject matter and the brutality he lived through as a slave. Occasionally, I found the colors to be a tad dark in a few instances and made it hard to see what was going on, but otherwise they were well done and worked to make the story more powerful.

This book was incredibly interesting and something that should be read in junior high school. If you had the type of American history classes that I had growing up, you were forced to learn names and dates and never learned the stories behind the people. There is only one word for that: boring.  

This graphic novel makes history come alive and is accessible to kids (and adults).

Creative Team: Damon F. Walker (writer), Damon Smyth (artist), Marissa Louise (colorist), James Guy Hill (letterer)
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Click here to purchase.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Fanbase Press Contributor



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