Five Best Books on the Coming of the Civil War

1. Before the Civil War, memoirs by escaped slaves poured from the abolitionist presses. Most were heavily edited, and almost all professed pious gratitude for the gift of deliverance. But William Grimes wrote his own story in raw language (“I have been so hungry for meat that I could have eat my mother”) that spared no one from his rage—not slave masters, not Northern whites, not other slaves. After his escape from Savannah, Yale students plied him with drink...

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