• The War Before the War

  • Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War
  • By: Andrew Delbanco
  • Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
  • Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 11-06-18
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio
  • 5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

Regular price: $31.50

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Publisher's Summary

The devastating story of how fugitive slaves drove the nation to Civil War.

For 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.

©2018 Andrew Delbanco (P)2018 Penguin Audio

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Great promise greater disappointment

The subject of this book is by far the most troubling of America’s history. So it was with great expectation the reading of it began.

However, already in the author’s introduction, where he effectively draws equivalency between his subject of slavery and the election of an American President with less than a majority of the popular vote, it is clear that the author has a political agenda which goes beyond the subject of this book.

This bias is reinforced by an arrogant writing style, which also is reflected in the performance of the narrator.

This agenda emerges many places throughout the book - far to many! This is unfortunate as it detracts from a crucially important subject in America’s history, a subject which despite improvements remain unresolved.

The author has made a commendable effort to research the history surrounding the Fugitive Slave Laws, and he deserves credit for that.

I had greater expectations for this book. Unfortunately the author and his political bias detracted from this expectation being fulfilled.

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Startlingly informative!

There were facts in this book I'm sure many people don't know. Sad and scary at the same time but also strengthening. If my ancestors survived Slavery, I can survive anything.

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Epic

Should be taught in every high school in America! Had no idea all of this happened! Times dont change much at all! Great work!

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a must-read to understand race in America today

it is impossible to understand race and racism in American Life without understanding its Origins in slavery. For that reason alone this book is essential reading. beyond that it illuminates the long understated role of fugitive slaves in building the Abolitionist Movement, and ultimately precipitating along with territorial issues the Civil War. the author makes no pretense of neutrality and his compassion for the oppressed slaves is heard throughout. But he also shows unusual empathy towards moderates in the North who worried that a war might just as easily prolong slavery as ended it. notably, throughout the book he warns against the smugness of hindsight in interpreting the actions of moral people of Goodwill who differed sharply and who in no way could predict the future.