Monday, October 12, 2009

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

By Nichole Giles

When I was first asked to review this book, I thought it sounded interesting. After all, it covers a very volatile period of time in our nation’s history, and I like history for the most part. What I didn’t expect was a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking story of a family of slaves—one man in particular—who loved the people they served, but who were kept as owned property.

The family—which grew to include a large group of white benefactors, brought together by the children of Peter Blow, who originally owned Dred—fought for freedom with a patience and passion strong enough to cause people to riot, and who would eventually become one of the catalysts that changed our fledgling nation forever. Indeed, Dred Scott’s fight was the platform on which Abraham Lincoln stood, and that catapulted him to be elected president.

About 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.

My thoughts:

This was a hard thing to read. Not because it isn’t well written or because the story isn’t compelling—actually, it was one of those books you don’t put down much—but because even though I’ve heard it all before, reading the story through one man’s eyes shed a whole new light on the horrors of slavery. And many of our countrymen, those who fought so hard to gain freedom from England’s stronghold, kept and mistreated people of color as slaves. They wrongfully believed that the statement in our Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal, only really applied to white men. It was hard to read because this is a shameful truth in our nation's history, and the truth is hard to ignore, even if it occurred nearly two hundred years in the past.

Yet, difficult as it was (and I admit to shedding more than one or two tears) I felt Dred and his wife Harriett’s hope, their belief in a fair and just judicial system, and their love for the Blow family who gave up everything to fight for the Scott family’s freedom.

So while it was hard to read, I’m so glad I did. This story, the fight of this family, was a turning point in the history of our nation. These people—specifically the slave Dred Scott, who was considered the property of other men for more than fifty years—found a way to change the world. When anyone else would have either run away or lay down to die, Dred and Harriett Scott, slaves from birth, bravely stood up to the highest court in the nation, fighting for the one thing they wanted most, the one thing we all want more than anything else. Freedom.

And in the end, Dred Scott won. He did not win freedom for himself, or his wife and daughters. Instead he won freedom for all the slaves in the United States.

Now I dare you to tell me you or I can’t do something to change the world.

Yep. This is definitely worth reading. In fact, I’ve already recommended it to several people, and plan to buy a few copies to give away as soon as it’s released on November 3rd.

To pre-order your copy, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the author, Mark L. Shurtleff, CLICK HERE.

For information about Valor Publishing Group, CLICK HERE.

**Disclaimer: The author of this review did receive an uncorrected advance reader's edition of this book. This is not a hardbound, signed collectible that one might sell in a used bookstore, but rather a copy printed pre-edit for review purposes. No other compensation was, or will ever be, made in payment of this review or endorsement.


L.T. Elliot said...

I admit, I've been anxious to hear about this story and see how it was received.

Excellent disclaimer at the bottom, Nichole! Well written and perfectly concise. FTC...pshaw.

Candace E. Salima said...

Thanks for doing such a good job of describing the strength and power of "Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story". It is, without question, a must buy! I have also purchased several copies for friends and family.

Cindy Beck said...

Thanks so much for the review. I've already bought a copy for my hubby for Christmas. It sounds like an amazing story ... and I'm anxious for him to read it so I can read it!

Nichole Giles said...

It is definitely a must read. I'm totally excited for the book launch, when Dred Scott's great, great granddaughter will be speaking. This is such an amazing story.

I'm thinking I'll need to buy several copies to give away.

Thanks for commenting everyone.


Anonymous said...

This review was absolutely awesome! I am a historical novel enthusiast all the way from Romania,with a huge soft spot for African-Americans. I haven't read this novel,as it isn't available over here,but I positively want to read it,as I'm in love with true heroes like Dred Scott.