Jim Remsen is a journalist and author of two prior books, The Intermarriage Handbook (HarperCollins, 1988) and Visions of Teaoga (Sunbury, 2014). Since retiring as Religion Editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, he has pursued his keen interest in history, with a focus on under-appreciated aspects of our nation’s local histories.
Visions of Teaoga explored the Native American story. Its focus was native-settler conflict up and down the Susquehanna River valley during the 1700s.
Embattled Freedom takes readers into the 1800s, to a dramatic period of interracial history in northeastern Pennsylvania. The focus is the village of Waverly, Pa. Being a native of Waverly, Jim is especially honored to bring its remarkable black and abolitionist era to light.
“I had no idea how much I’d be uncovering in my three years of research,” the author says. “The accounts of Waverly’s little ‘Colored Hill’ settlement were always so sketchy. When I was a boy, the Civil War was just observing its 100th anniversary. I was very caught up in it, in the glory, the drama, the idea of brothers fighting brothers. Check out this old snapshot of me and my brother Garry in our front hallway. I’m the skinny one on the right, in my gray baseball jersey posing as Johnny Reb. Somehow the reality that the ‘graybacks’ were defending human slavery didn’t sink in, or, sadly, just didn’t matter much to me or others in my little world at the time. My adult self knows better on that score and so I was thrilled when my book research revealed that one of Waverly’s defiant anti-slavery activists had lived in my old boyhood house. He’d probably welcomed fugitive slaves into the very hallway where young Johnny Reb had posed!”
In learning about Waverly’s runaway slaves and their white allies, Jim came to see how much animosity they faced on the home front, particularly as the Civil War bore down on them. His Embattled Freedom chronicles a tumultuous world in which ideals collided, politics was thunderous, and national destiny was at stake. You’re invited to enter that world and, as Jim states at the outset of the book, “consider its people, and ponder where you might have positioned yourself had it been your world.”
Listen to Jim’s WVIA radio interview about the book (Feb. 28th, 2017) here.
Read the Philadelphia Inquirer’s major review of Embattled Freedom (July 16, 2017).