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Nat Brandt and Yanna Kroyt Brandt
Published: May 15 2007
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Longtime journalist Nat Brandt has been a reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger, an editor for the New York Times, managing editor of American Heritage, editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, and a senior newswriter for CBS News. He is the author of ten previous nonfiction books—including The Town That Started the Civil War, The Man Who Tried to Burn New York, and Chicago Death Trap—as well as two novels. Brandt is a recipient of the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for Southern History as well as awards from the Illinois State Historical Society and the New Jersey Press Association.
Yanna Kroyt Brandt is a writer, director, and producer for film and television. Her work has been honored with nine Emmy awards as well as awards from the Writers Guild of America and prizes from more than fifty film festivals. She is the writer, director, and producer (and cocreator with Nat Brandt) of the prize-winning PBS documentary series The Crucible of the Millennium.
"In the Shadow of the Civil War is an exciting narrative of a conflict between slavery and freedom that had national consequences beyond the streets and courts of Philadelphia where it took place. Passmore Williamson went to jail for his part in helping Jane Johnson and her children achieve freedom in 1855, but then won his own liberty and vindicated the state sovereignty of Pennsylvania on behalf of freedom over the power of slavery wielded by the federal government. In their riveting account, the Brandts show how the publicity generated by this case moved the nation a step closer to the crisis of 1861."—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era and This Mighty Scourge of War: The American Illiad, 1861–1865
"Based on excellent research, In the Shadow of the Civil War brilliantly illuminates the complex personal, legal, and societal factors surrounding slavery and race in the United States in the era just prior to the Civil War. An abolitionist's simple rescue mission in Philadelphia in 1855 emerged as anything but routine, and the resulting legal proceedings reflected the strengths and weaknesses of constitutional law and evoked the passions of a nation. The immense cast of characters superbly described in this comprehensive and elegantly written account reveal to us the human lives at the center of national controversy. This story dramatically and indelibly recreates the divergent ideals that coursed throughout the country on the eve of war and contributes enormously to our understanding of rich regional and national implications inherent in the emancipation of Jane Johnson and her sons. In short, the Brandts, both masterful storytellers, have given us a really marvelous book."—Franklin W. Knight, Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University
"In the Shadow of the Civil War, by Nat Brandt with Yanna Kroyt Brandt, is a compact and thrilling tale of civil disobedience. Brandt . . . has created a compelling and detailed look into one dramatic rescue and one act of civil disobedience that helped to inspire others to break the hated Fugitive Slave Law."—ForeWord Magazine
"Nat and Yanna Brandt's book explores the controversial 1855 rescue of Jane Johnson and her two sons, slaves of Joseph Wheeler, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua. The Brandts believe that fugitive slave cases like this one humanized the slavery issue, and made abolitionists appear principled and humanistic. The case's major characters spring to life in the Brandt's vivid writing. . . . admirably capture the personal, legal, and social dimensions of these cases. They fill important gaps in our understanding of the fugitive slave issue in the North, and contribute significantly to our understanding of this important issue on the eve of the Civil War."—Civil War History
"The story of Passmore Williamson—a Quaker abolitionist who used a Pennsylvania law to free Jane Johnson from bondage in 1855—reminds us that every grand narrative has its roots in the households and hearts of its citizens. In the Shadow of the Civil War: Passmore Williamson and the Rescue of Jane Johnson draws upon personal papers, legal documents, and newspaper commentary to provide a compelling account of one individual's commitment to freedom in a slave society struggling, as Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it, to hold a 'wolf by the ears."—H-Net Reviews
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