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The War Before the War by Andrew Delbanco

The War Before the War

The War Before the War by Andrew Delbanco
Hardcover
Nov 06, 2018 | 464 Pages
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    Nov 06, 2018 | 464 Pages

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    Nov 06, 2018 | 464 Pages

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Praise

“Provocative, sweeping study of America’s original sin—slavery—in the late 18th and early 19th centuries… Essential background reading for anyone seeking to understand the history of the early republic and the Civil War.” — Kirkus, starred review

“Andrew Delbanco is one of our generation’s most gifted scholars and discerning, public intellectuals. In his astonishing new work, The War Before the War, he transforms the figure of the fugitive slave from the margins of American history to its dynamic center, demonstrating how their plight exposed the paradoxes in the soul of a nation torn between freedom and slavery, as it propelled to its greatest reckoning.  By rendering in such gripping detail that defining struggle of the 18th and 19th centuries, Delbanco reminds us of the stakes of moral testing in every generation, and how the agents of moral change often begin their journeys under the most desperate circumstances.  The result is not only a brilliant historical analysis; it is also a source of strength for the road ahead—a long, hard road that stretches back to the founding of our great Republic. This delightfully readable book is thronged with stories of heroes whose names may escape us, but whose flights from bondage helped to revolutionize the country we are called upon to defend today.”  –Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard and author of Stony the Road
 
“The great value of Andrew Delbanco’s interpretively edifying The War Before the War is in centering the cause of the great irrepressible conflict of 1860 in the many hearts-and-minds of otherwise indifferent, sympathetic, uncertain northern men and women who finally found enforced complicity in the South’s ‘peculiar institution’ intolerable and a war for human ideals inescapable.” –David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography
 
“In The War Before the War, one of America’s most eloquent scholars draws readers into the compelling story of how the North-South struggle over runaway slaves prepared the way for the Civil War.  From the making of the Constitution to the bloodbath that began at Fort Sumter, Andrew Delbanco captures the experience of escaped slaves as they forced white Americans to confront the cruelties of slavery.  This is a political, legal, and above all, human, story with powerful resonance today.”—Dan Carter, author of Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South  
 
“Timely, incisive, deeply researched, The War Before the War tells the vital story of fugitive slaves, whose courageous defiance forced the young nation to reckon with its primal horror. Delbanco’s swift-moving yet powerfully nuanced narrative offers insights into the institution of slavery and the political maneuvering that led up to the Civil War. This book is essential reading today, at a historical moment that demands unflinching reflection on founding truths.”–Elizabeth D. Samet, author of Soldier’s Heart and editor of the Annotated Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
 
The War Before the War is a beautifully researched work of scholarship and one of the best examinations of the bleak, complex, macabre world of American slavery that I’ve read. Everything about the Peculiar Institution is here in vivid detail, but especially the crisis caused by a Fugitive Slave Act that tore this nation asunder. And if that were not enough, Andrew Delbanco makes us aware of how the past is painfully present today in our social, racial and political dilemmas that “rhyme” with those of our nineteenth century predecessors. This is a work every American needs to read.”—Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage


“With a rare combination of in-depth historical research and an unmatched command of nineteenth-century American literature, Andrew Delbanco tells the story of the coming of the Civil War and emancipation.  He highlights the role of fugitive slaves in forcing the slavery issue onto the centerstage of politics, but manages to treat all the protagonists in the long struggle over human bondage with compassion and insight. The result is an original rendering of the nation’s greatest crisis.”—Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and Pulitzer Prize Winning author of Reconstruction and The Fiery Trial

“Wherever slavery existed, so did runaway slaves. Now Andrew Delbanco places those fugitives—and the laws that tried to stop them—at the center of the coming of the Civil War. In this surprising and dramatic history, we follow courageous slaves, outraged masters, righteous and self-righteous politicians, and agonized citizens, as they collide with the Constitution of the United States. Taking us to barbarous plantations and bustling city streets, into raucous courtrooms and the restive halls of Congress, Delbanco brilliantly reveals parallels with the humanitarian crises and cultural clashes of our own times.”—Martha Hodes, author of Mourning Lincoln

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