The Hammer and the Anvil: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America

The Hammer and the AnvilOn January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and Frederick Douglass was in Boston to celebrate. Finally, all former slaves, men and women, were free – now and forever.

Lincoln and Douglass worked together as well as separately to ensure the ending of slavery in America and, finally, they achieved the goal they had been working on for so long. It was a semi-happy outcome. Lincoln would soon be assassinated and segregation would continue until 1964, thanks to the Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson under the guise of “Separate but Equal”. Yet, Lincoln and Douglass had started a movement against slavery and without their dedication and tireless devotion to the cause slavery might have continued for much longer than it did.

These were not rich and unstoppable men — one was a slave who was shipped from family to family, the other a boy from Illinois who worked, yet collected no pay until he was twenty-two. Their brains, determination, and trust in others gave them the foundation they needed to see it through to the end. Without both of them, the cause would have surely been lost.

In their second collaboration, author Dwight Jon Zimmerman and illustrator Wayne Vansant bring readers to the time of slavery and introduce them to the men who would get it eradicated. Born a slave in 1818, Frederick Bailey (later renamed Frederick Douglass) knew a life of horrors. He was taken away from his mother almost immediately and moved from one family to another, like the property he was. He was beaten. Thanks to the kindness of one of his master’s wives, he learned to read the Bible and taught himself how to write. Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809, lost his mother at a young age. With his father’s remarriage came a stepmother and her library of books. During this time, Lincoln worked steadily, but he never saw any of the money; his father kept all the money Lincoln earned until he was 22-years-old.

Both men grew more confident in their abilities as they aged; Douglass became a skilled orator with performances scheduled around the country and the world; Lincoln became involved in the local and federal government systems and spoke against slavery in votes and bills from his very first day in office. Eventually, Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and with it came the Civil War and the succession of many southern states. but it also brought with it the friendship of Frederick Douglass. Both men had deeply held convictions and worked in different ways to make things right in America. Douglass was outspoken and acted from his gut; Lincoln was slow to act, but when he did, everyone knew it came from a place of intense study and focus. Their different styles worked perfectly in tandem, and when they came together, the world was changed for the better.

Once again, the publishing imprint Hill and Wang give readers an excellently researched and illustrated graphic work of nonfiction that will engage and inspire the reader long past the last page. The material is engaging and will hold a reader’s interest through even the most complicated of explanations. The illustrations by Vansant are meticulous and simply, yet intricately drawn. I loved how Douglass was colored in blue tones and Lincoln in sepia until they met, and then, suddenly, full color! Also, it was much easier for me to understand how the Civil War worked as Zimmerman illustrated it; maps of the U.S. are peppered throughout and help bring understanding to the facts within. The cast of characters is quite large in the book, but the illustrations really differentiate between all the different players. Expressions are greatly drawn, and panels match actions perfectly. The words and pictures really do work well together and create a very interesting story. The turmoil and action of that time is truly brought to light through both words and illustrations. What a wonderful book to add to the narrative of the lives of Lincoln and Douglass. What a great way to introduce or teach the Civil War, slavery, and the lives of these two wonderful men to teens and adults.

The Hammer and the Anvil: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America
by Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Art by Wayne Vansant
ISBN: 9780809053582
Hill and Wang, 2012