About a month ago, blogging friend and author Tristi Pinkston e-mailed and asked if I would be interested in being a part of a blog tour for a new book that's coming out. I've had the pleasure of doing a book review for Tristi before and was pleased that she asked again. When she told me the book was about the infamous Dred Scott trial, I was intrigued.
One of the places that the kids and I visited on our trip last summer was St. Louis. Luke and I toured the Old Court House where the first two parts of the Dred Scott case were heard in 1847 and 1850. It is a majestic landmark in downtown St. Louis, overlooking the Mississippi River and aligned with the Gateway Arch. Walking through the very building where one of the most significant trials in our nation's history took place was humbling.
I tried to imagine as best I could the experience of Dred Scott, an illiterate slave, who challenged first the Missouri courts and then the Supreme Court of the United States, to be declared a free man. My imagination could not do the story justice, but Mark Shurtleff's, Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story, certainly does just that. It is a riveting account of one man's courage and perseverance, and the struggles of a nation seeking its fundamental truths. Mr. Shurtleff, the Attorney General for the State of Utah has a gift for story telling and this was a page turner that I was reluctant to set down.
The book is 432 pages, the majority of the first 300 pages setting the stage for the trial. Mr. Shurtleff takes us on a fascinating journey of our nation's history. He engages the reader in accounts of the lives of the key players in Dred Scott's life: the illiterate slave, his devoted wife, Harriet; the noble Blow family who were once Scott's owners and later finance his path to freedom; Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, whose decision would return Dred Scott to the bonds of slavery, and his declaration that because African Americans were "of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race" at the time the Constitution was drafted, could not be considered citizens of the United States; and Abraham Lincoln who was so abhorred by the atrocities of slavery that he returned to political life so as to fight against it, and whose stance against the Scott verdict would eventually propel him to the office of President of the United States.
The story of Dred Scott is a heart wrenching account of a dark time in our nation's history. Mr. Shurtleff does an admirable task of engaging the reader in the telling of this moving story, leaving an indelible mark in our hearts and minds.