I have heard of and knew the basic story of Dred Scott. Now, after reading "Am I Not A Man?", a historical novel, by Mark Shurtleff, I know the man behind the name. Dred Scott was more than a black slave from the 1800's, who wanted his freedom. If we left that definition to the name, we would be missing tremendously on who this man truly was. He was a man of courage, great faith, loyalty and love. Dred Scott fought for the things that we take for granted these days; the fact that we are free to be who we want to be and live like we want to live in a free land.
For those, who are not familiar with Dred Scott and his historic court battle, here is a summary found on the back of the book.
An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."
Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.
Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.
For those who are not familiar with this famous case here are the facts (found on this site at http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/score_lessons/evolution_of_civilrights/dred.html)
DRED SCOTT VS. SANFORD 1857
In 1846, Dred Scott, a slave, sued in a Missouri court for his freedom from his master. Scott argued that his service for Dr. Emerson in Illinois, a state from which slavery has been excluded by the Missouri Compromise, made him a free man. Eventually, the case reached the Supreme Court made of nine judges who interpreted the Constitution in regards to cases. At that time the court reflected the attitudes of the time and in a 7-2 decision ruled against Scott. The most important point in this case was that blacks were not considered people but property and since they were property they could not petition for rights. Chief Justice Taney wrote that it was "too clear to dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended" by the men that signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to be included as citizens of the nation they sought to establish.
I need to say right here,before telling you more about the book, even though this book is told in narrative form, it is still a book chock full of history. For someone like me who loves to read about historical events, ( I did take 40 hours of history classes in college) this book was very satisfying. If you have never been a fan of history, this book might not be your favorite read. After stating this fact: everyone should read this book. It brings to the forefront of our minds the importance of fighting for something that we believe in. It shows how man's spirit, even when beaten down, can still rise and fight another day. There were many people, not only Dred Scott fighting for the freedom of the slaves, but Dred's friends, the Blows, all the way up to President Abraham Lincoln.
Another fact about this book, it is very well written. Even though it is his first published book, Mark Shurtleff did an amazing job! Throughout the telling of Dred's story, you become emotionally involved as you read of the heartbreak of this man's life. You can't help but feel great sorrow about how families were broken up because of slavery. Mark Shurtleff not only told an important story, but he was able to write the emotion into the story that changed our nation.
Dred Scott died, having never won his freedom; but his heroic fight forever changed our nation. With this historic case, it led to the election of another great man, President Abraham Lincoln. The American Civil War eventually led to the end of slavery.
Quoting Jordan McCollum, from her wonderful blog post/review on this book she reminds us:
"Ultimately, the Supreme Court reversed this decision, relegating the African Americans to the status of property, not human before the law in 1857. Although later freed (because his widowed owner remarried to a prominent abolitionist Congressman), Dred died before the beginning of the bloodiest war in American history, the 13th Amendment (which abolished slavery—not the Emancipation Proclamation, folks!), and the 14th Amendment (which made former slaves full citizens—well, the men, anyway. While the 15th Amendment gave freed slaves the right to vote, women would wait another 60 years for the vote.).
Let's just say, as I am needing to end this post, I am grateful to have received a free copy of this book from Valor Publishing to review. This book, once again, made me stop and think about myself and this great country that I love. It reminded me, that all of us must continually fight, for the freedoms that have been ours. It also reminded me of the great people that have and continue to make, The United States of America, the greatest country on Earth.
Read this book and I promise you, that something inside of you will forever be changed. Thank you Mark Shurtleff, for writing such a compelling book!
You can purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
ABOUT MARK SHURTLEFF
Mark L. Shurtleff attended Brigham Young University, University of Utah College of Law and University of San Diego School of Law. He lived in Peru for two years, absorbing the culture and living amongst the Peruvian people.
Mark began his legal career by serving four years in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), then was a lawyer in Southern California.
Mark was a Deputy County Attorney and a Commissioner of Salt Lake County. He then became an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Utah. He was elected Attorney General in November 2000, and was re-elected in November 2004 and again in November 2008. He is the first Attorney General in Utah to win re-election for a third term.
Mark is married with five children. He is an Eagle Scout, fluent in Spanish and this is his first novel.