Fresh Air: Andrew Delbanco on the Fugitive Slave Act

How The Fugitive Slave Act Ignited A ‘Struggle For America’s Soul’


JMC faculty partner Andrew Delbanco joined Terry Gross to discuss the complicated and important history of fugitive slave laws and constitutional protections of slavery on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Delbanco argues that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act paved the way for the Civil War by endangering the lives of both escaped slaves and free black men and women in the North. He also provides a concise and lucid overview of the political and constitutional history of slavery from the Founding to the Civil War.


Click here to listen to the episode on NPR’s website >>


Professor Delbanco’s interview drew from his new book, The War Before the War:
Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War, which was released today (November 6, 2018) by Penguin Press.

Click here to find his book on Amazon >>



Andrew Delbanco, winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates, is the author of College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (2012), Melville: His World and Work (2005), The Death of Satan (1995), Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now (1997), The Real American Dream (1999), and The Puritan Ordeal(1989), among other books.  His work has been translated into several languages, including German, Spanish, Korean, Russian, and Chinese.

Professor Delbanco’s essays appear regularly in The New York Review of Books and other journals, on topics ranging from American literary and religious history to contemporary issues in higher education. In 2001, he was named by Time Magazine as “America’s Best Social Critic” and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also an elected member of the American Philosophical Society, a trustee of the Teagle Foundation, the Library of America, and trustee emeritus of the National Humanities Center.

In February 2012, President Barack Obama presented Professor Delbanco with the National Humanities Medal for his writings on higher education and the place classic authors hold in history and contemporary life.

Click here to find his profile at Columbia >>

Click here to read his Wikipedia entry >>



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