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On the Edge of Freedom: The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870 (The North's Civil War (FUP)) 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0823240326
ISBN-10: 0823240320
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Editorial Reviews


"David Smith's On The Edge of Freedom is the most nuanced, detailed and sophisticated study of the Underground Railroad in rural Pennsylvania that I have ever read. Based on a wide variety of primary sources, this study offers a series of fresh insights about how the fugitive crisis along the Mason-Dixon Line directly impacted the wider national struggle over slavery and union."-Matthew Pinsker, Dickinson College

"David G. Smith has delivered a revelatory portrait of one of the most important political battlegrounds of antebellum America, where networks of fugitive slaves, slave-catchers, informers, and Underground Railroad activists lived side by side in a tangled web. He sheds much new light on the struggle of the abolitionism to take route in southern Pennsylvania's difficult soil, and challenges cherished preconceptions of the North as solidly anti-slavery and friendly to fugitive slaves. In the process, he has given us a deeper understanding of the daunting moral complexities of life in the pre-Civil War borderland. This is a book to be reckoned with."-Fergus M. Bordewich, author of America's Great debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union

"In this well wrought and powerful narrative, Smith examines the vital borderland of south central Pennsylvania. Challenging scholars to re-think our understanding of the fugitive slave law, Smith examines that issue through white and black perspectives over nearly fifty years of sectional conflict, war, and reconstruction. This is an important contribution to our understanding of how war itself intensified the fugitive slave issue and redirected it. Smith's thorough appendices demonstrate remarkable and comprehensive research reflected in this important narrative."-Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln

"Solidly researched and documented."-Christopher Densmore, Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College

"...On The Edge of Freedom is a thoroughly researched, informative, and engaging piece of scholarship."-The Civil War Book Review

"David Smith has produced a fascinating study of 19th-century race realtions in the border area of Pennsylvania, which is not usually thought of as a border state."-Civil War News

"Smith shows how antislavery activists in Pennsylvania engaged in a number of activities to assist fugitive slaves who entered Pennsylvania from Maryland and Virginia on their quest for freedom."-Choice

"In a provocative, well-researched study of race and freedom in south central Pennsylvania, David G. Smith, reveals how African Americans in Adams, Cumberland, and Franklin counties truly lives 'on the edge of freedom' during the half century from 1820 to 1870." --H-Net Reviews

"David Smith's 'On the Edge of Freedom' is an important addition to the literature on antislavery in the North. By linking the antebellum and postbellum trajectories of slavery and freedom, readers can understand and appreciate the complexity of antislavery sentiment in a border region influenced by starkly opposed ideologies." -Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

About the Author

David G. Smith received his Ph.D. in American History from the Pennsylvania State University in 2006. A social historian of the Civil War period, his research centers on the intersection of war, societal conflict, and race. He currently works as a consultant to the Department of Defense.

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: The North's Civil War (FUP)
  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press; 1 edition (October 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823240320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823240326
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,035,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Let me just say that I am a member of the author's family...that said, I found this book to be a wide-ranging and thorough account of how a crucial border region dealt with the slavery issue before, during, and to some extent, after, the Civil War. Readers will find particular detail on the period from the 1840s to the end of the Civil War. This includes great detail on the Gettysburg campaign, when this region was the site of hostilities (and the site of at least some "slave catching" raids by members of the Confederate Army). The political choices and actions of the extremely important figure of Thaddeus Stevens (who was featured prominently in the movie "Lincoln") are also described in detail. In short, I think that this is a book that many readers interested in the Civil War, Northern History, slavery, border states, and race relations ( as well as those interested in the stories of individual courage by common citizens opposed to slavery) will find very valuable and intriguing.
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