Saturday, July 24, 2021

Douglass and Garrison


As in the post below, Douglass' speeches are fascinating but they make me aware of all I don't know about abolitionism and the pre-war period.  In Douglass' speech The Dred Scott Decision we learn that he and his mentor William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of The Liberator, ultimately disagreed about whether the Union should be preserved and whether the Constitution was ultimately a document supporting slavery or a tool for ending it.  These are deep philosophical questions that I would love to delve into more deeply.  

On the Library's periodical database Ebsco Host I uncovered an article that might help:

Gregory Garvey, T. (1995). Frederick Douglass’s change of opinion on the U.S. Constitution: Abolitionism and the.. ATQ, 9(3), 229.

If you click this link, you will be prompted to enter your library card number to access the article.  (and for what it's worth, ATQ stands for American Transcendental Quarterly)

Douglass and Brown

 At the midpoint of our program I find that I'd like to know more of the specifics of the relationship between John Brown and Frederick Douglass.  The Library of Congress makes available the text of the lecture: John Brown, delivered at Harper’s Ferry and sundry other places by Frederick Douglass.  If you have the time to read it, we'd love to know what it illuminates for you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

June is a wrap!



We had a fabulous night talking with David F. Walker, author of The Life of Frederick Douglass. Despite a horrendous heatwave in Portland (and an eventual power outage!), Mr. Walker provided so much insight on the process it took to bring this graphic biography to fruition, along with how it has compared to other comics projects he's working on and his drive to bring a more inclusive history to a wider audience through his work.

As always we want to highlight some of the works referenced in the conversation for your further reading enjoyment:

Thank you all for making a great start to our 2021 Big Book Challenge! If you aren't already on our mailing list, email to join--that is where you'll find the Zoom invites for upcoming discussions. In July, we embark on The Good Lord Bird by James McBride and continue on in The Portable Frederick Douglass

  • The Good Lord Bird--discussing Parts One and Two. Monday, July 26, 7 p.m.
  • The Portable Frederick Douglass--discussing "Speeches" (pp. 195-413 in the print edition). Wednesday. July 28, 7 p.m.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Thank you!

Portrait of Frederick Douglass by Samule J. Miller

Thank you to everyone who participated in last night's first book discussion of the summer! We had such a great turnout, with a whopping 45 participants--a record online event for us! Having such a large online gathering could have been a headache, but your contributions made for an engaging discussion.

The conversation meandered along topics such as Douglass's memory, point of view, providence, and identity over the course of his lifetime. Several attendees remarked upon how the power of the Chesapeake Bay is evoked in his work and the influence of Christianity on 19th century America. We took a deep look at how the fight between Douglass and Covey became such a cornerstone in Douglass's understanding of himself and his activism. 

Unsurprisingly, the book discussion generated lots of recommendations for other works as well. Here are some of those:

Dr. Jack also suggested our readers visit Documenting the American South, where archivists at University of North Carolina have digitized all known narratives by enslaved people up until 1920.

If you haven't checked out Dr. Jack's presentation on the life and works of Frederick Douglass, you can view the videos here.

June is almost over, but we still have another discussion! Join us next week--Monday, June 28, at 7 p.m.--when we are excited to be joined by David F. Walker (not to be confused with the aforementioned abolitionist!), author of our June selection, The Life of Frederick Douglass. Email to make sure you get the Zoom invitation for the discussion.

Read on!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

U City Readers ARE the Best Readers in the World!

We are SO excited to have such incredible interest in our Big Book Challenge this year! You are crushing it and making us so proud.

Because participation is so high, we might have an extra large gathering for our first Zoom meeting, discussing The Portable Frederick Douglass (pp. ix-149) on Wednesday, June 23 at 7pm, led by Dr. Bryan Jack. We'd like to ask for questions for Dr. Jack in advance to help better manage turnout, so please email with any of your burning (or casual) questions. We will be emailing out a list of the questions prior to the discussion.

What do you want to know about Douglass and his story? We want to make as many of your voices ‘heard’ as possible, so please don’t be shy!

If you’re interested in exploring our Challenge titles in different formats, take a look at Overdrive by Libby and Hoopla, where you can find eBook versions of The Portable Frederick Douglass and audio of The Good Lord Bird, respectively.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Congratulations to David Walker!

You know David Walker this summer as the author (and visitor for our June 28th meeting!) of The Life of Frederick Douglass. Last week, one of Walker's current comics, Bitter Root, was nominated for several Eisners, one of the biggest awards in the comics industry! Big congratulations to Mr. Walker! Bitter Root puts an adventurous, supernatural spin on the Harlem Renaissance of 1920s New York City. You can check out the series from the library today!

Bitter Root Vol. 1: Family Business

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Frederick Douglass in Context

Did you know? Several of the references and resources Dr. Jack mentioned in his lecture are available through the library. If our reading this summer inspires you to learn more about the life and times of Frederick Douglass, read on!

Slave Narratives:

  • Brown, William Wells. The Works of William Wells Brown: Using His "Strong, Manly Voice." Oxford University Press, 2006. 818.409 BRO
  • Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Penguin Books, 2003. B EQUIANO
  • Jacobs, Harriet A. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself. Harvard University Press, 2000. B JACOBS

On Frederick Douglass:

  •  Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Simon & Schuster, 2018. B DOUGLASS
  • McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass. Norton, 1995. B DOUGLASS
  • Stauffer, John. Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Twelve, 2008. 973.7092 STA

Are you planning on visiting New York City in the future? The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has the documents of Frederick Douglass's manumission in its collection. Check out their post about it here.

Frederick Douglass to Hugh Auld, November 24, 1846. (The Gilder Lehrman Collection, GLC0748403 page 1)

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Welcome to Summer Reading 2021!

Welcome to University City Public Library's 2021 Big Book(S!) Challenge!


First off, make sure you've RSVPed in order to get Zoom invitations for our book discussions this summer (due to the pandemic, all discussions will be virtual). Most of the books just started going out today, so you should be receiving notices that they're available for pick-up soon if you've requested them. Be sure you get a reading guide when you're at the library.

(In order to borrow materials from us, you'll need a library card from The Municipal Library Consortium of St. Louis County, of which University City Public Library is a member. If you're not currently a cardholder, click here and we'll be happy to get you set up!)

Next, you'll want to watch the kickoff lecture by Dr. Bryan Jack here or on our YouTube channel (note that it's in three parts):


 Part 1


Part 2


Part 3

Dr. Jack will be joining us for our Zoom discussion on Wednesday, June 23, at 7 p.m., discussing The Portable Frederick Douglass, pp. ix - 149 (the "Autobiographical Writings" section). Again, be sure to RSVP in order to receive the Zoom invitation.

We are also excited to have David F. Walker, author of the graphic biography The Life of Frederick Douglass, joining us on our discussion of his book on Monday, June 28, at 7 p.m.


Here are all the dates for this summer:

Keynote Presentation with Bryan Jack,
Associate Professor of History at SIUE
Available online beginning May 26

Portable Frederick Douglass: Online Discussion
led by Bryan Jack
7 p.m. Wednesday, June 23
pp. ix-149, the Autobiographical Writings

Life of Frederick Douglass: Online Discussion
featuring author David F. Walker
7 p.m. Monday, June 28

The Good Lord Bird: Online Discussion
Parts 1 & 2
7 p.m. Monday, July 26

Portable Frederick Douglass: Online Discussion
led by Bryan Jack
7 p.m. Wednesday, July 28
pp. 195-410
The Speeches

Portable Frederick Douglass: Online Discussion
led by Bryan Jack
7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25
pp. 413-537
The Journalism

The Good Lord Bird: Online Discussion
Part 3
7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30 

We'll be back soon with content about our great reads this summer!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Yes! You Want to Take the Challenge!

And we want you to!  Take just a moment to complete this RSVP form to let us know which of the three challenge books you'll need.  We'll have them ready for you on Wednesday, May 26!

 Ivory-billed Woodpecker , Campephilus principalis, hand-colored engraving. Male on the left, female on the right. John James Audubon

Monday, May 3, 2021

Welcome to the 2021 Big Book Challenge!

Welcome to the 2021 Adult Summer Reading Big Book Challenge! This year, for the first time ever, we're exploring three thematically-linked titles with our reading choices: The Portable Frederick Douglass, a collection of autobiographical works by the abolitionist and former slave; the graphic novel The Life of Frederick Douglass by David Walker; and the National Book Award-winning tale of abolition The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.

As with 2020, all discussions and programs will take place online via Zoom. Make sure you're on our Summer Reading mailing list by sending an email to These emails will include all Zoom invite links, so make sure "" is on your list of approved senders. You can also find links to all of the emails at the bottom of this page.

UCPL will still offer its Big Book readers the same discussions and scholar presentations — and informative blog posts — you've come to know and love.