Frederickson was a powerful force in reshaping historical views of the Civil War and race relations in the United States. He helped invent the field of comparative history through his seminal work White Supremacy: A Comparative Study of American and South African History, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Few, if any, other historians have so imaginatively used a comparative approach to racism in America.
Fredrickson was a prolific writer. His most recent book, Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race (Harvard University Press), was published last week and is based on his W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures of November 2006 at Harvard. A collection of his essays from scholarly journals and the New York Review of Books, titled Diverse Nations: Explorations in the History of Racial and Ethnic Pluralism, will be published by Paradigm in June. It explores recent interpretations of slavery and race relations in the United States and introduces comparative perspectives on Europe, South Africa and Brazil; it includes work on ethno-racial pluralism in France and the United States.
Fredrickson earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Harvard in 1956 and a doctorate in history, also from Harvard, in 1964. He taught at Harvard and Northwestern before coming to Stanford as the Edgar E. Robinson Professor of United States History in 1984.