Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship
by Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
About the book:
In 1865, at the reception to celebrate his second inauguration as president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln kept an eye out for a special guest: Frederick Douglass. Although Lincoln was white and Douglass was black although Lincoln was born free and Douglass had been born a slave, both were central figures in the American abolitionist movement.
This is a glimpse into an unusual friendship between two great American leaders. At a time when racial tensions were high and racial equity was not yet established, Lincoln and Douglass formed a strong bond over shared ideals and worked alongside each other for a common goal.
Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni’s lyrical text combines with Bryan Collier’s stunning cut-paper collages to tell the story of this unique historic friendship.
About the author:
Nikki Giovanni has written many collections of poetry for both children and adults as well as several books for children including Rosa, The Sun is So Quiet, and Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance Through Poetry. Nikki lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, where she is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech.
Bryan Collier grew up in Pocomoke City, Maryland, where he began painting at the age of fifteen. Bryan’s first books, Uptown, won the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award. He has also received Caldecott Honors for his illustrations in Rosa and Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brainstorm a list of everything you know about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Sort the information into the following categories: early years, education, and beliefs. After reading the book add more information into these categories in a new color to review what you learned.
Questions to consider:
Nikki Giovanni uses beautiful imagery to tell this story from Lincoln and Douglass’s friendship. “Stars sparkled brightly as the jewels peeping from the earlobes of the ladies.” Make a list of phrases that appeal to your senses as you read. As you write your own next story try to use your senses, too, inspired by Nikki Giovanni’s example.
As you read the story fill out the following chart about the characters.
Have students create a simple board game which allows the players to advance by stating the correct definition of the following words from the book: cadence, reception, overseer, refuge, congress, mutual, abolitionist, seized, arsenal, emancipation, tracts, foolhardy, plantation, inevitable, nominated, compromise, dominated, grim, festivities, decline.
Create a diagram that compares the 1800’s to life today in the following categories: Rights of people, transportation, education, clothing, and entertainment.
Research and write a newspaper story about one of the characters or incidents mentioned in the story (John Brown’s revolt, for example). Be sure you can answer the five journalistic questions when you’ve completed your research (who, what, when, where, and why).
Inspired by Bryan Collier’s cut-paper collage create a piece of art exploring the importance of friendship. Experiment with a variety of materials- old magazines, newspapers, cloth or even creating some papers. You might try starting with a sketch or jump straight to scissors and glue and see where it leads you. Write a brief artist’s statement about your process.