The War Before the War
The devastating story of how fugitive slaves drove the nation to Civil WarFor decades after its founding, America was really two nations--one slave, one free. There were many reasons why this composite nation ultimately broke apart, but the fact that enslaved black people repeatedly risked their lives to flee their masters in the South in search of freedom in the North proved that the "united" states was actually a lie. Fugitive slaves exposed the contradiction between the myth that slavery was a benign institution and the reality that a nation based on the principle of human equality was in fact a prison-house in which millions of Americans had no rights at all. By awakening northerners to the true nature of slavery, and by enraging southerners who demanded the return of their human "property," fugitive slaves forced the nation to confront the truth about itself.By 1850, with America on the verge of collapse, Congress reached what it hoped was a solution-- the notorious Compromise of 1850, which required that fugitive slaves be returned to their masters. Like so many political compromises before and since, it was a deal by which white Americans tried to advance their interests at the expense of black Americans. Yet the Fugitive Slave Act, intended to preserve the Union, in fact set the nation on the path to civil war. It divided not only the American nation, but also the hearts and minds of Americans who struggled with the timeless problem of when to submit to an unjust law and when to resist.The fugitive slave story illuminates what brought us to war with ourselves and the terrible legacies of slavery that are with us still.

The War Before the War Details

TitleThe War Before the War
Author
ReleaseNov 6th, 2018
PublisherPenguin Press
ISBN-139781594204050
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, North American Hi..., American History, Military History, Civil War, American Civil War

The War Before the War Review

  • Mara
    January 1, 1970
    I appreciate this as a part of the growing area of popular historical non-fiction that is contextualizing the role that resistance among enslaved people played in catalyzing the conflict of the Civil War. This book helps reclaim our public memory & narrative on the true level of resistance that enslaved people enacted, which not only changed their personal lives, but also drove the forces of national policy and dialogue leading up to the Civil War
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  • Brenda Ayala
    January 1, 1970
    The War Before the War covers everything that led up to the US civil war and how much went into it. A fair portion of it is spent on the Fugitive Slave Act and encompassed the ambivalent feelings many had over slavery. Most importantly, it covered the views of slavery from a variety of standpoints, including ex-slaves, northerners, religious officials, southerners, and loyal slaves. It was well researched and had a breadth of information to cover, which it did very well. At times it was repetiti The War Before the War covers everything that led up to the US civil war and how much went into it. A fair portion of it is spent on the Fugitive Slave Act and encompassed the ambivalent feelings many had over slavery. Most importantly, it covered the views of slavery from a variety of standpoints, including ex-slaves, northerners, religious officials, southerners, and loyal slaves. It was well researched and had a breadth of information to cover, which it did very well. At times it was repetitive, but it wasn’t bad enough to be a distraction and detract from the overall effect. The author did a good job of throwing in anecdotes to the narrative so it wasn’t so dry. Nonfiction can be hard to get through if it reads too much like a dry timeline of events, and this author made sure to spice it up. Easily my favorite was a certain light colored slave woman pretending to be a rich lady and smuggling herself and her husband out of slavery. It’s tales like that that force us to recognize these events happened to real people, not just a generic population of faceless masses.
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  • Darcia Helle
    January 1, 1970
    Most history books covering the period from the Revolution to the Civil War are written from the white person's perspective. Whether looking at it from the south or the north, pro- or antislavery, events are often told as if African Americans sat silently awaiting their rescue. I love that this book flips all that upside down, showing us how slaves and free blacks both worked together and clashed during this period. We're shown how and why the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, the resulting proble Most history books covering the period from the Revolution to the Civil War are written from the white person's perspective. Whether looking at it from the south or the north, pro- or antislavery, events are often told as if African Americans sat silently awaiting their rescue. I love that this book flips all that upside down, showing us how slaves and free blacks both worked together and clashed during this period. We're shown how and why the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, the resulting problems for all citizens, and the ever-widening divide between the southerners clinging to their right to "own" people and the northerners growing inability to look away. And, maybe most importantly, we're shown how African Americans rose up and demanded change.Throughout the narrative, the author makes some compelling references to current events, inadvertently reminding us that maybe we haven't moved as far from our dark past as we'd like to think. He gives us much to think about, not least of which being how a country founded on freedom and personal liberty could ever legitimize the right to own another person.While the subject matter is dense and complex, the writing style is engaging. I felt like I was transported back to this tumultuous time.I'd like to see this book as required reading for every high school student. And maybe those students should then pass the book on to their parents. We need to acknowledge the fissures that divided our country have shifted but haven't healed. This book goes a long way to showing us the how and why.*I received an advance copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.*
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    Needs more than my usual two or three lines of Goodreads notes and I don't have time for more than two or three lines (later, then) - this is a masterclass in writing nuanced and imaginative history. Along the way, Delbanco includes just enough parallels to our current moment to spark readers' ethical imaginations (and make them squirm in their seats).Alan Jacobs reviews the book here: https://www.weeklystandard.com/alan-j...
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  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    This book is simply amazing. It is well written and researched and an engaging read. The author covers the time period from the Revolution to the Civil War and the struggles endured by slaves seeking freedom, maintaining freedom and those who could not escape the harsh environment in which they were kept. He makes excellent use of qoutes from the many different players involved during the time period including escaped slaves helping to bring clarity to the subject.I recommend this book for anyon This book is simply amazing. It is well written and researched and an engaging read. The author covers the time period from the Revolution to the Civil War and the struggles endured by slaves seeking freedom, maintaining freedom and those who could not escape the harsh environment in which they were kept. He makes excellent use of qoutes from the many different players involved during the time period including escaped slaves helping to bring clarity to the subject.I recommend this book for anyone who wants a definitive book on the issues of slavery in the United States.I received a free Kindle copy of The War Before the War by by Andrew Delbanco courtesy of Net Galley  and  Penquin Books, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the description interested me and I am an avid reader of american history. This is the first book by the author that I have read.
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  • Lissa
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars.
  • Alexis
    January 1, 1970
    I can't recommend this book enough. It was a capitvating read in its own right, but the depth the author goes into adds even more enjoyabilty. I learned so much from it, and even had a whole conversation about what I had learned with a friend the other day. The topic is timeless, and sadly still applies today. The author makes compelling references to modern events without being political. Modern references and comparisons vary from Trump, to Vietnam, to the Iraq war and make the comparison with I can't recommend this book enough. It was a capitvating read in its own right, but the depth the author goes into adds even more enjoyabilty. I learned so much from it, and even had a whole conversation about what I had learned with a friend the other day. The topic is timeless, and sadly still applies today. The author makes compelling references to modern events without being political. Modern references and comparisons vary from Trump, to Vietnam, to the Iraq war and make the comparison without judgement on the topic, in a way that helps the reader understand the historical mindset. The North and South are both portrayed as flawed, and no one side is held up to be perfect or completely racially sensitive. Actual, human reasons are given as motives for slave owners, and abolitionists alike, which we can understand. Questions like, "why would people obessed with freedom have slaves?" or "What started the civil war?" are fairly answered. if you want to learn about the lead up to the civil war in an informative and easy to read manner, this is definately the book to do so with.
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  • Vince
    January 1, 1970
    United States Constitution Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 otherwise known as the Fugitive Slave Clause: No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.With the inclusion of the Fugitive Slave Clause the framers of our Constitution decided that the only way to f United States Constitution Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 otherwise known as the Fugitive Slave Clause: No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.With the inclusion of the Fugitive Slave Clause the framers of our Constitution decided that the only way to form "a more perfect union", or any union at all, was to appease the slave states of the South. Thus began nearly a century of escalating strife between the pro and anti-slavery factions of the newborn United States, its political factions and the populace at large, that inevitably led to secession and civil war. Andrew Delbanco did a marvelous job researching the era to produced a piece of non-fiction that is not only academic but also highly readable. His inclusion of interviews and anecdotes bring the history to life and gives it emotional heft. This is not a, dry, slogging text by any means. It is also strengthened by the pains taken to describe this period from a variety of perspectives. Northern conservatives and abolitionists, fugitive slaves and free blacks, Southern slave holders all have a voice. In doing so it helps the reader to understand that the people who lived this history had no benefit of hindsight and illuminates their plight in walking a very thin line between supporting immoral laws that returned fugitive slaves to often brutal masters or choosing a path of resistance. Educational to say the least and also profound. It you're committed to gaining a deeper understanding of America's history of racial injustice or are simply interested in the antebellum era, then this book should be added to your list.
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  • Gianna
    January 1, 1970
    This was such an interesting read about the laws relating to slavery before the Civil War and the effects of them. I haven't read such a detailed book yet, that answered questions I had and didn't know I had about the time leading up to the Civil War.There's hope in this book, I loved each and every story about people fighting against slavery (lawyers are amazing), but there are also so many harrowing stories and sadness. The comparisons to the current American politics are easily made and terri This was such an interesting read about the laws relating to slavery before the Civil War and the effects of them. I haven't read such a detailed book yet, that answered questions I had and didn't know I had about the time leading up to the Civil War.There's hope in this book, I loved each and every story about people fighting against slavery (lawyers are amazing), but there are also so many harrowing stories and sadness. The comparisons to the current American politics are easily made and terrifying. I received a free copy of the book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Bryce Doty
    January 1, 1970
    Super impressed with this book. I'm an idiot and I know nothing about the world. I've always loved the American Renaissance authors (Emerson, Whitman, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickenson, etc.) but I had no idea what world they were living in when they were writing. Highly recommend.
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  • Richard Mounce
    January 1, 1970
    Incredible book
  • Tessa
    January 1, 1970
    Alan Jacobs' review: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox
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