Andrew Delbanco's 'The War Before the War' Wins 2019 Lukas Prize

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard are pleased to announce the five winners and the two finalists of the 2019 Lukas Prizes. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at the Nieman Foundation in Cambridge, Mass.

Judges’ citation: In his eloquent history, Andrew Delbanco elevates fugitive slaves to center stage in antebellum America and challenges conventional wisdom about the Civil War. He focuses on the unintended consequences of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which was designed to unify the nation but paradoxically lit the fuse that split it. This overlooked chapter of American history reminds us of the enduring, devastating effects of America’s original accommodation with slavery and of the enslaved men and women who persistently risked their lives to escape bondage. They exposed what might be called America’s founding fiction that the states were ever truly “united.” Vividly written, Delbanco’s THE WAR BEFORE THE WAR conjures echoes from the past that eerily resonate today: the splintering of the two major political parties, black protests of slavery and jails, and public discourse infused with insult and invective.

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