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Audio book brings abolitionist Frederick Douglass to life

February 19, 2007
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@dcn.davis.ca.us

Andrew L. Barnes, 37, is the president of Legacy Audio Books, a business that he created to combine his three passions: theater, technology and theology.

“I’ve never been able to give any one of them up,” he said in a phone interview last week from his Cincinnati home.

And in fairness none of this would be possible without his fourth passion – JoAnn – his wife, business partner and high school sweetheart.

“I couldn’t do it without her,” he said. She handles graphic design, promotion, and takes care of their three children.

He is the voice talent who reads the books that become the product. So far, Legacy Audio Books (www.legacyaudiobooks.com) has five titles for sale:

“Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer,” “The Adventures of Uncle Tom,” “Up From Slavery,” “Frederick Douglass: Narrative of an American Slave,” and “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster.”

Upcoming titles include “Satchmo” and another audio book about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

I recently listened to the unabridged version of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography.

Barnes’ bass-baritone voice is richly hypnotic. It came as no surprise to learn that he is a former opera singer who works as a voice-over actor.

And Douglass’ story is one of a kind -- so unusual in fact that he was accused of being a fraud and not a former slave who became a famous abolitionist who advised Abraham Lincoln.

Douglass, born in 1818, was the son of a slave and white man. He never knew who his father was and only saw his mother four or five times.

Sold from owner to owner and hired out as a farm or shipyard laborer, Douglass experienced both kindness and cruelty.

“He was a very powerful figure,” said Barnes. “What touched me were the descriptions of his life. He was brought up on a plantation and mistreated in his early years but it didn’t discourage him. He was a man of great courage and determination.”

Barnes said he was particularly struck by one incident in Douglass’ life.

“He coaxed little boys into teaching him the letters of the alphabet and how to read – that showed his great hunger and thirst for learning. There’s no comparison to our materialistic society of today. I truly admire him,” Barnes said.

Douglass fled from Baltimore to New York City when he was 20 and settled in Massachusetts, working at whatever jobs he could find -- chopping wood, rolling casks of oil, sawing lumber.

“I worked that first day (as a free man) with a pleasure I had never before experienced,” read Barnes as Douglass. “No work was too hard, none too dirty.”

In New Bedford, Douglass was introduced to abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal, The Liberator.

“It became my meat, my drink,” said Douglass. “It sent a thrill through my soul. I took right hold of the cause.”

Garrison and Douglass became friends. Douglass began speaking at anti-slavery meetings and became a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In 1845 he published his autobiography.

Imagine how Douglass must have felt three years later when he embarked upon a speaking tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Later, Douglass met Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and recruited northern blacks for the Union Army. After the war he continued working for the rights of women and African-Americans.

Barnes is a devoted fan. He doesn’t want anyone to forget the contributions made by Douglass.

“Douglass’ words and the way he writes is extraordinary,” he said. “Some people didn’t believe he could have written his autobiography but I believe he penned every word. I have no doubt whatsoever – his subsequent writings were just as brilliant.”

For more information on Legacy Audio Books, phone toll free at 877-843-8489.

-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at gizmo@dcn.org and watch for more local writers to be featured biweekly at this web site.

For More Information, Visit These Links:
Fredrick Douglass at Wikipedia
Fredrick Douglass at US National Park Service web site with Time Line

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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