Today I have the honor of reviewing Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's book "Am I not a Man? The Dred Scott story."
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.
What I liked:
Shurtleff really drew me into 1850's Missouri with concise description and well written dialogue. Pictures at the beginning of each chapter also added to the setting. I had a clear picture of Dred in my head through the whole book because of this.
Another helpful item was the Chronology at the beginning, Shurtleff skipped from one time period to another so to have it all mapped out at the beginning was necessary.
He portrays a real passion for the story and the characters, and it is clear that he payed attention to the details of the lives of all the people involved.
What I didn't like:
The book could stand to be cut way back. There were times when Shurtleff would tell the histories of all the characters in the room. Later he would show the exact same histories.
As a writer I understand his zeal for the story and his desire to make sure all the details and historical facts are correct, but it still needed to be tightened up.
This is a story that more Americans should know. I had heard the name Dred Scott but I never knew what the name was tied to. The court case for Dred is what spurred the 1857 law that declared no one of African Decent would be considered a citizen of the United States, which directly lead to the election of Abraham Lincoln.
It's such a big part of American History that feel was skirtted around in my high school education. I'm grateful to know now the events of that time and place, and Shurtleff certainly delivered on the facts and left no pretenses about what was real and what wasn't. Overall, it was a very informative read.