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Scott Christianson

Scott Christianson talking about Freeing Charles on C-Span2 Book TV

Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War

by Scott Christianson
ISBN 978-0-252-03439-8 Cloth
ISBN 978-0-252-07688-6 Paperback
University of Illinois Press, 240 pp. (Jan. 28, 2010)
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Author Bio
Scott Christianson

Freeing Charles recounts the life and epic rescue of captured fugitive slave Charles Nalle of Culpeper, Virginia, who was forcibly liberated by Harriet Tubman and others in Troy, New York, on April 27, 1860. Scott Christianson follows Nalle from his enslavement by the Hansborough family in Virginia through his escape by the Underground Railroad and his experiences in the North on the eve of the Civil War. This engaging narrative represents the first in-depth historical study of this crucial incident, one of the fiercest anti-slavery riots after Harpers Ferry. Christianson also presents a richly detailed look at slavery culture in antebellum Virginia and probes the deepest political and psychological aspects of this epic tale. His account underscores fundamental questions about racial inequality, the rule of law, civil disobedience, and violent resistance to slavery in the antebellum North and South.

News Coverage
Civil War Book Review
Virginia Book Festival Scott Christianson
The Chicago Poetry Calendar: Printer Row Lit Fest (Chigago)
A Troy Story of the Underground Railroad in Rensselaer
Anna Davis was curious about her history
History comes alive in Troy Story
Troy played role in Underground Railroad rescue of slave
Telling a story of freedom won
Interview, Dr. Alvin Jones radio show, Feb. 24, 2010 (WMA 10.2 MB)
News report, Capital News 9, Albany, NY, Feb. 28, 2010
The Walls Street Journal "In a Fury Over Freedom" March 26, 2010

Unlocking History in "Freeing Charles"
Culpeper (VA) Star-Exponent, April 11, 2010

"Extensively researched and finely analyzed, Freeing Charles tells the gripping story of a fugitive slave rescue that has largely escaped our attention until now."
--Richard J. M. Blackett, author of Divided Hearts: Britain and the American Civil War

"In this magnificently conceived and subtly rendered book, Scott Christianson not only brings to life the men and women of the Underground Railroad as they carry out one of the most dramatic rescues of a fugitive slave on record, he also guides us unflinchingly along the heartbreaking fault line of racial relations that warped life in America--in both the North and the South--in the age of slavery."
--Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America

"Absorbing and eminently readable. With a large cast of characters, this stirring historical narrative centered on one incident also uses a wide-angle lens to reveal many other facets of slavery's impact during the antebellum years."
--Jean M. Humez, author of Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories

"Scott Christianson’s beautifully written real life story of fugitive slave Charles Nalle, whose dramatic escape, recapture, and then rescue is one of the long forgotten yet incredibly important events in our nation’s history, is as compelling as the most thrilling contemporary fiction. Simmering tensions between freedom and slavery are abruptly thrown into dramatic public confrontation as notions of race and identity are challenged in ways long ignored by most Americans.  Christianson deftly weaves the complex realities of antebellum America - the ownership of human beings and the absolute control it endowed on owners and masters who were sometimes related by blood, and the legal and social structures that defined life for African Americans – through the lives of those who lived it. Not all white northerners were anti-slavery, and therefore life for refugees could be insecure and fraught with danger. But this book is a true testament to those sometimes-ordinary people who did extraordinary things for other human beings. Christianson serves up history like a master storyteller – a great dose of good vs. evil drama in the form of tragedy, triumph, love, illicit sex, and a cast of characters that will surprise and delight you.”
--Kate Clifford Larson, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero

"A vivid and arresting biography that focuses on one mid-nineteenth century man and his family, whom slavery constantly imperiled even after they freed themselves not only once, but several times. It is such stories that help us learn how much was at stake for anyone held to slavery and the lengths to which some white people would go to reverse attempts at self-emancipation."
--Philip J. Schwarz, author of Migrants against Slavery: Virginians and the Nation

“Christianson explores the complications of the law, and he captures the drama of Nalle’s escape and attempted recapture and the complexities of citizens willing to defy the law for a higher principle.”
—Vanessa Bush, Booklist