“The Pres­ident and The Freedom Fighter” was released in 2021. | Amazon

“What we now want is a country — a free country — a country not sad­dened by the foot­prints of a single slave — and nowhere cursed by the presence of a single slave­holder,” Fred­erick Dou­glass said, as recorded in “The Pres­ident and The Freedom Fighter” by Brian Kilmeade.

Kilmeade’s 2021 biog­raphy “The Pres­ident and The Freedom Fighter” offers a new, unique per­spective on two heroes from the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln and Fred­erick Dou­glass. Kilmeade, an author and Fox News com­men­tator, brings a welcome reprieve from the all-too-common twisting of history to suit political aims.

Kilmeade begins the work by offering the reader a window into Lincoln and Dou­glass’ dif­ficult child­hoods. Rather than regur­gi­tating their well-remem­bered achieve­ments, Kilmeade reveals the man behind the myth. 

Lincoln and Dou­glass were far dif­ferent from the perhaps mono­lithic, stoic ideals that many of us are familiar with. He uses sound research to portray clear, relatable char­acter devel­opment in each of the men throughout their lives. 

While living in New Salem, Illinois, Lincoln wrestled a local trou­ble­maker in the streets. Lincoln also managed the town’s gristmill, but spent his free time reading and even­tually worked his way into law and politics. 

Once, when Dou­glass’ slave master came to beat him, he defended himself — suc­cess­fully. Dou­glass even­tually learned to read and began to share his story at abo­li­tionist con­ven­tions, becoming a leading voice in the movement to end slavery. 

While Kilmeade expands beyond the major events in Lincoln and Dou­glass’ lives, he doesn’t fail to do these issues justice. He makes the weighty deci­sions of war and eman­ci­pation all the more complex by revealing the way in which Lincoln’s childhood and Dou­glass’ back­ground in slavery con­tributed to the way in which they approached these issues. These men, the reader finds, had a per­sonal con­nection to the Republic’s struggle for true liberty. 

At the same time, Kilmeade reveals that the men didn’t simply draw from their own expe­rience. He shows they held America’s founding prin­ciples in the highest regard. Kilmeade reveals how the prin­ciple of equality and the right to the fruits of one’s labor inspired Dou­glass to resist — and even­tually escape — slavery. He also depicts how Lincoln’s self-taught edu­cation even­tually brought him to “a rev­erence for the Con­sti­tution and laws.” In a day where sup­posed “experts” have the final say, Kilmeade shows that men from humble back­grounds can use their reason to find and defend immortal truths.

Kilmeade approaches the issue of slavery and America’s founding in a subtle, non-inflam­matory way. By pro­viding his­torical context, often incor­po­rating Lincoln and Dou­glass’ own words, he sug­gests a more opti­mistic and patriotic per­spective on the issue.

While “The 1619 Project” depicts America as a fun­da­men­tally racist country, “The Pres­ident and The Freedom Fighter” reveals America’s struggle to advance the prin­ciples of the Dec­la­ration of Inde­pen­dence. At the same time, however, he refrains from going beyond what the evi­dence war­rants. Kilmeade’s his­torical respon­si­bility is impressive, to say the least.

With Hillsdale’s history of abo­li­tionism — including two visits by Dou­glass — Kilmeade offers stu­dents a refreshing reminder of the school’s her­itage. This book is a pow­erful message on the sac­ri­fices made for the sake of liberty and equality under the law.