Monday, November 16, 2009

Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story, by Mark L. Shurtleff

I remember just a little bit about the Dred Scott case from my American History classes. The Supreme Court at the time ruled that a negro slave was essentially less than a human being. Unfortunately, the instructor just barrelled on to the American Civil war without getting into Dred Scott's story. Mr. Shurtleff goes much deeper, putting flesh and blood on the bones of an old court case, breathing the harrowing story back to life.

The story of Sam Blow, aka Dred Scott, would contain sufficient hardship, struggle and hard-earned reward all by itself. Shurtleff goes beyond Dred Scott's story in this new historic fiction novel. He reaches back into colonial times for the story of Peter Blow, the first of a family of Virginia tobacco planters that eventually succumb to the temptation of owning slaves as a source of labor. Shurtleff interweaves the lives of those who would help decide Dred's fate such as U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney, and the members of the Blow family who grew up regarding Dred as an older brother. Even Abraham Lincoln's story comes to light as Dred's lawsuit for his freedom stretches out for years.

Shurtleff asserts that without Dred Scott's legal fight and the damning opinion written by Judge Taney, Abraham Lincoln may not have had the political ammunition to win his race for the presidency of the United States. Shurtleff's case is certainly well constructed, as one would expect from a state attorney general. Shurtleff holds up Dred's fight for freedom in the courts as not just an individual's assertion of equality, but a turning point in the struggle of a whole people to gain recognition as human beings worthy of respect and equal treatment under the law.

Gripping and thoughtful, this is a good escape for history buffs.

You can purchase a hardcover copy here at Amazon
Or if you have a Kindle you can get a copy here.

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