Thursday, November 5, 2009

Am I Not A Man?: The Dred Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff -- Book Review

The story of Dred Scott has been told before, but never has it been told in such a moving and engaging way as in Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story by Mark Shurtleff.

Born Sam Blow on a plantation in Virginia, he was born into slavery, an issue that plagued the nation since its inception. But slavery was more than just an issue for Sam Blow and his family. While they were treated well and Sam and his younger brother, Dred became good friends to the Blow children, as a slave, they knew there was a certain line that you didn't cross. When a tragic accident takes the life of his younger brother, Sam changes his name to Dred; his last name now honoring the great Winfield Scott.

When Dred's wife Sarah is sold at auction and lost to him forever, Dred is devastated, and his yearning to be free deepens. Many years would pass before he would meet Harriet, who would become his wife and the mother of his two daughters. Being a father finds Dred wanting to be free more than ever; to give his daughters a better life than the one he and Harriet have known.

Having traveled to free states with his master, at the urging of friends who are familiar with the law that states once free, always free, Dred puts his trust in the justice system to declare him a free man. Dred's freedom is short-lived, however, and he must take his case to the United States Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Roger Taney declares that a black man has "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

While I am familiar with Dred Scott and the landmark case that would lead to the election of President Lincoln, a bitter Civil War, and eventually the Emancipation Proclamation, I have never read such a personal and detailed account of Scott's life as I found in Am I Not A Man? by Mark Shurtleff. By choosing elements of fiction to create the picture of Scott's life, the author draws the reader into Dred's story in a way that compells her to keep turning the pages. This is not some dry, boring narrative. It is engaging, it is moving, and it makes you want to learn all you can about Dred Scott, his family, and his fight for freedom.

Am I Not A Man? shows you that Dred Scott was more than an over read story in a history text. He was a man who yearned for freedom and a man who sought a better life for himself, his family and for others. Shurtleff's many years of researching Scott's life culminate in this brilliant debut release from Valor Publishing. Currently the Utah State Attorney General, Shurtleff's passion for this subject is evident from page one. Am I Not A Man?: The Dred Scott Story should be in every high school and college American History classroom.

Title: Am I Not A Man?: The Dred Scott Story
Author: Mark L. Shurtleff
Publisher: Valor Publishing Group, LLC.
SRP: $24.95 (U.S.)

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