Posted on November 10, 2018 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Author Andrew Delbanco’s new book about an especially divisive part of American history comes out at a fitting time.

The War Before The War examines the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which endangered not only escaped slaves in the North, but also free black people, who risked being wrongly imprisoned and enslaved with little if any due process.

Delbanco’s book examines how this one law paved the way for the Civil War by increasing the tension between the North and South ... and also by illustrating to the North that slavery, while illegal in their states, remained an American problem.

One might read the book and be grateful that our country was able to endure an internal conflict and remain united — surely that’s good news for current times, right?

Not necessarily, says Delbanco.

Sure, today’s vitriol is terrifying, but the image of enslaving people and murdering our neighbors is far worse. While that's true, it also means that institutions that we believe in and trust aren’t infallible.

Listen to Delbanco discuss the book and its parallels with modern times on Fresh Air below, or read a transcript of his interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s website.

Categories: Author Interview

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