MixedThe Washington PostAchorn gives us is a lively guided tour of Washington during the 24 hours or so around Lincoln’s swearing-in ... Achorn...has a journalist’s gift for finding just the right quotation. He deftly fishes memorable descriptions—often less-than-flattering ones—out of 19th-century newspapers and diaries, especially as he introduces the most distinguished residents of the nation’s capital ... Despite Achorn’s sharp eye for such immersive details, his big-picture narration offers little that is new or surprising. Readers unfamiliar with this much-chronicled period of history will probably appreciate his skill in depicting a pivotal city at a pivotal moment. But anyone who has read even one or two of the many, many other good books on Civil War-era Washington might end up skimming through his workmanlike accounts ... The pace sometimes drags as Achorn stretches out this single day over the entire book, frequently interrupting his flow with digressions, explanations and flashbacks.
David W. Blight
RaveThe Washington Post\"David Blight’s extraordinary new biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, captures the complexities of the man who lived and died at Cedar Hill: a figure both eminent and solitary who gazed across vastly different American landscapes ... But Blight thoroughly justifies his claim [that Douglass is a \'prophet of freedom\'] in a book that is not just a deeply researched birth-to-death chronology but also an extended meditation on what it means to be a prophet ... Douglass himself was apparently never recorded by the phonograph operators. But in Blight’s pages, his voice again rings out loud and clear, melancholy and triumphant — still prophesying, still agitating, still calling us to action.\