"Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War" w/ author Scott Christianson

Date(s) - Wednesday 03/03/2010
12:00 am - 2:00 am

Cover of book "Freeing Charles"

Join the Sanctuary in welcoming author Scott Christianson for a multimedia presentation and spirited public discussion on the life and amazing rescue of captured fugitive slave, Charles Nalle. In an almost unimaginable act – and the most dramatic slave rescue in American history – Nalle was forcibly liberated by Harriet Tubman and hundreds of protesters on April 27, 1860 in our own Troy, New York.

(Update: Artist Mark Priest will no longer be able to attend this event. Sorry for the last-minute change!)

In his book, Christianson follows Nalle from his enslavement in Virginia through his escape via the Underground Railroad to his experiences in the North on the eve of the Civil War. 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.

Christianson – who spent 18 years reconstructing Nalle’s life and escape from slavery, the operation of the Underground Railroad, and the riots that pitted an interracial mob of local abolitionists against armed pro-slavery forces – will be joined by the book’s illustrator, renowned African American artist Mark Priest, who spent several years reconstructing the incident in a series of emotional and monumental paintings.


Praise for Freeing Charles

“In this magnificently conceived and subtly rendered book, Christianson not only brings to life the men and women of the Underground Railroad as they carry out one of the most dramatic rescues f 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 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.

“Christianson’s beautifully written story of fugitive slave Charles Nalle’s dramatic escape, recapture, and then rescue is one of the long forgotten yet incredibly important events in our nation’s history. Christianson serves up history like a master storyteller: a great dose of drama, tragedy, triumph, love, illicit sex, and a cast of characters that will surprise and delight.”

Kate Clifford Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.


Scott Christianson is an award-wining author, investigative reporter, curator, filmmaker and scholar. With a PhD from SUNY Albany, he has taught at Bard College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College and SUNY Albany, and has lectured throughout the United States and abroad.

Christianson’s many books include: With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in America (winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Distinguished Honors Book Award); Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House; and Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, History, and American Legacy.

A staunch supporter of the Sanctuary for Independent Media, Christianson lives in Sand Lake, NY in a house that was once part of the Underground Railroad.

For more information, visit: http://scottchristianson.org

Mark Priest received his Master’s Degree from Yale University and is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Louisville. His series of paintings on the rescue of captured fugitive slave, Charles Nalle, will be on exhibit at the Rensselaer County Historical Society and Russell Sage College in February and March 2010.

On his series of paintings depicting Harriet Tubman, Priest said, “Forever etched in my memory are an infinite number of untold stories of individuals who toiled tirelessly to attain freedom.” And, “I strive to create dramatic compositions to portray the intensity of each moment.”

For more information, visit: http://www.markpriest.org