Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story

Recently, I received an email from my friend Tristi Pinkston, Senior Editor of the new Valor Publishing Group, asking if I would read and review Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story as part of its virtual book tour. The book was written by Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff, and is the first title to be published by Valor.

I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, as I have heard a lot about it, and the story it tells marks a pivotal moment in the history of this great nation. Plus, I'm always happy to let someone send me a free book.

The complete description of this book can be found below, but in a nutshell, Dred Scott was a slave who took his fight for freedom all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court's decision in the case of Scott vs. Sanford galvanized both sides in the slavery debate, and was referenced heavily in the successful presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln.

Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story is a very powerful book. It is a novelization of true events, and as such, some liberties were taken in inventing dialog and details, but the story itself comes straight out of history. Many of the facts surrounding slavery in the United States are unpleasant at best, and often downright brutal. Because of this, Am I Not A Man? can be difficult to read in places. This is no light-weight beach book.

However, the story of courage and determination -- from Dred Scott, his family, and his white benefactors -- is truly inspiring. While not strictly chronological, the book covers the whole of Dred's life, from his birth on the Blow plantation during a visit by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, to his death a few short years before the start of the Civil War.

Mr. Shurtleff does an excellent job of presenting the story of Dred Scott, both his trials and his triumphs. I must admit at first to being put off by some of the historical asides that pepper the narrative, but as the story progressed I found myself grateful for the context and background these asides provide.

Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story arrived in bookstores on November 3rd, and will make a worthy addition to your reading list.

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.

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