'Embattled Freedom' Has Won Wide Praise
In 2017, Sunbury Press released Embattled Freedom: Chronicle of a Fugitive-Slave Haven in the Wary North, Jim Remsen's heavily researched nonfiction work.
Embattled Freedom explores the life and times of a group of remarkable fugitive slaves who fled north on the Underground Railroad and found safe haven in Jim's own boyhood hometown in the mid-1800s. The town is Waverly, Pa., a white farming village near Scranton, Pa. In the face of local skepticism, a cadre of white villagers and nearby farmers set up the black runaways with jobs, land and other material support, thus establishing a settlement known as "Colored Hill" that endured into the 1920s. When the Civil War came and the call went out for black recruits, a dozen men and boys left the safety of Colored Hill to return South and fight in the Union army.
This dramatic information has been nearly lost to time, so Jim decided to bring it to light. His extensive research revealed that not only did the black dozen fight, but their particular battlefield valor changed white attitudes about black soldiers. By following the men over the course of their long lives, he also traces everyday conditions in Pennsylvania that they had to navigate. Though they were free, few of their Northern neighbors regarded black people as equal. Waverly displayed extraordinary benevolence—but white rule and racial restrictions were ever-present, stifling realities.
Embattled Freedom won immediate praise. "A research gem," says Sherman Wooden, President of the Center for Anti-Slavery Studies, in Montrose, Pa. "A fascinating history that needs to be shared," adds Mary Ann Moran-Savakinus, Director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, in Scranton.
The book is filled with period images. One of the best ones is included above. It is a painting on display at the U.S. Military Academy's West Point Museum that depicts a victorious charge into battle by the 22nd U.S. Colored Troops regiment. The famous charge happened in 1864 at Petersburg—and six of the Waverly men took part.
Since 2017 Jim has made 60 appearances in support of the book. To contact him about an author presentation, and to read more about the book's dramatic story, visit embattledfreedom.org