Love Across Color Lines by Maria Diedrich
Ottilie Assing and Frederick Douglass

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The tragic story of the great abolitionist and his German-Jewish lover.

In this nuanced, sympathetic interpretation of two extraordinary lives, Maria Diedrich is the first to acquaint us with an important and little-known relationship.

In 1856 Ottilie Assing, an intrepid journalist who had left Germany after the failed revolution of 1848, traveled to Rochester, New York, to interview Frederick Douglass for a German newspaper. This encounter transformed the lives of both: they became intimate friends, they stayed together for twenty-eight years, and she translated his autobiography into German. Diedrich reveals in fascinating detail their shared intellectual and cultural interests and how they worked together on his abolitionist writings.

As is clear from letters and diaries, Douglass was enchanted with his vivacious companion but believed that any liaison with a white woman would be fatal to his political mission. Assing was keenly aware of his dilemma but certain he would marry her once his mission was fulfilled. She was bitterly disappointed: after his wife's death, Douglass remarried--another woman. Assing committed suicide, leaving her estate to Douglass.

Love Across Color Lines is a profound meditation on nineteenth-century racial, class, and national boundaries, and a fascinating new interpretation of a preeminent American leader.


About Maria Diedrich

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Maria Diedrich, born in 1950, is a professor of American studies at the University of Munster, Germany. Since 1984, she has been a Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University.
Published June 1, 1999 by Hill & Wang Pub. 480 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Love Across Color Lines

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A breakthrough biography of Douglass's private life, highlighting the fruitful and romantic relationship between the abolitionist and former slave and his German translator and companion.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Love Across Color Lines: Otti...

Publishers Weekly

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Based on admittedly meager sources (a fragment of an 1874 letter from Douglass, Assing's letters to friends and relatives and the preface to her translation of Douglass's autobiography), Diedrich pres

May 31 1999 | Read Full Review of Love Across Color Lines: Otti...

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