A Glorious Liberty


A Glorious Liberty

Frederick Douglass and the Fight for an Antislavery Constitution

Damon Root

200 pages


April 2023


$19.95 Add to Cart

October 2020


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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October 2020


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2020


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2021 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

In this timely and provocative book, Damon Root reveals how Frederick Douglass’s fight for an antislavery Constitution helped to shape the course of American history in the nineteenth century and beyond. At a time when the principles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were under assault, Frederick Douglass picked up their banner, championing inalienable rights for all, regardless of race. When Americans were killing each other on the battlefield, Douglass fought for a cause greater than the mere preservation of the Union. “No war but an Abolition war,” he maintained. “No peace but an Abolition peace.” In the aftermath of the Civil War, when state and local governments were violating the rights of the recently emancipated, Douglass preached the importance of “the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the cartridge-box” in the struggle against Jim Crow.

Frederick Douglass, the former slave who had secretly taught himself how to read, would teach the American people a thing or two about the true meaning of the Constitution. This is the story of a fundamental debate that goes to the very heart of America’s founding ideals—a debate that is still very much with us today.

Author Bio

Damon Root is an award-winning legal journalist and the author of Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court. He works as a senior editor and columnist for Reason magazine. Root’s writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, Newsweek, New York Post, New York Daily News, New York Press, Washington Times, WallStreetJournal.com, Globe and Mail, and other publications.


"Root champions Douglass as an important legal and political thinker, a determined fighter for full citizenship rights and freedom for all Americans regardless of race."—J. D. Smith, Choice

"Refreshing and thoughtful, written in accessible prose. It would be an excellent starting point for any undergraduate class not only on Douglass but also the debates over slavery into which he entered."—J. W. Mills, Intellectual History Review

"In his brilliant new book A Glorious Liberty: Frederick Douglass and the Fight for an Antislavery Constitution, Damon Root convincingly argues that in addition to being remembered for his courageous and inspiring life story, 'Douglass deserves to be remembered as a significant legal and political thinker in his own right, as an intellectual firebrand who spent the better part of his life grappling with fundamental questions about the meaning of freedom and the role of government—questions that still remain powerfully relevant today.'"—Stephen F. Rohde, Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine

“Today, once again, the original Constitution is being vilified, as a validation of slavery, by people with disreputable agendas and negligible understanding. Damon Root, who explicates the great document as well as anyone writing today, brings the patience of Job and a noble ally—Frederick Douglass—to the task of refuting this recycled canard.”—George F. Will

“Is the Constitution an antislavery ‘glorious liberty document’ or a proslavery ‘agreement with hell’? The antebellum debates between William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass are as relevant today as they were two centuries ago. In this important new book, Damon Root methodologically and accessibly walks you through this formative constitutional debate and shows why Douglass rightfully belongs ‘in the pantheon of American civic philosophers.’”—Josh Blackman, professor of constitutional law at South Texas College of Law Houston

“Damon Root has written a meticulously researched celebration of the intellectual legacy of Frederick Douglass. . . . As we continue to debate the legacy of slavery, Root convincingly argues that in reconciling the country’s most profound moral incongruity—that a nation purporting to be a beacon of liberty could be so inextricably rooted in human bondage—Douglass should be mentioned in the same breath as the Founding Fathers, perhaps even more so, as a historical figure who not only championed the ideas that made America great, but in pointing out where it fell short of those values demanded that the country become a better version of itself.”—Radley Balko, investigative journalist at the Washington Post and coauthor of The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South

Table of Contents

Introduction: Frederick Douglass’s Constitution    
1. “A Faithful Disciple of William Lloyd Garrison”     
2. “An Anti-slavery Instrument”     
3. “This Hell-Black Judgment of the Supreme Court”     
4. “Men of Color, to Arms!”     
5. “One Nation, One Country, One Citizenship”     
Epilogue: A Legacy of Liberty    

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