Frederick Douglass was arguably the first African American celebrity. He delivered speeches to audiences that were learning to appreciate modern forms of entertainment and were beginning to think of themselves as consumers of culture. While Douglass's eloquent speeches have been studied for their style and argument - and more recently for their construction of blackness - audiences made it clear that their positive response was mostly to Douglass the man, not to a well-presented argument. This book attempts to answer a fundamental question: How did Douglass manage to persuade anyone about the evils of slavery, and even impress viewers with his personal qualities, when his speeches were commonly considered mere entertainment, in the same category as Barnum's circus acts? In answering this question, Terry Baxter provides a means of understanding the positive responses of Frederick Douglass's white audiences and African American celebrities' roles as both objects of consumption and vehicles for social change.

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