Friday, October 30, 2009

AM I NOT A MAN? The Dred Scott Story - Book Review

After my last child graduated high school, I went back to college to earn my BA in English at the University of Utah. In my American History Class I first heard of the infamous legal case Dred Scott vs. Sandford brought before the Supreme Court in 1857. The court's decision overturned an act of Congress in the Missouri Compromise. I have often wondered about the people behind this case and their story. This decision ruled that a black man was not a man and had no rights as a white man. It's hard for us to imagine such a ruling today. This decision by the Supreme Court set the stage for one of our most famous and beloved presidents to become elected. You know who I'm talking about...Abraham Lincoln. How did this happen?

Democratic President James Buchanan had decided not to run for re-election, so Senator Stephen Douglas stepped up for the democrats. However, Douglas made a major mistake. He stumped referring to the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Scott vs Sanford and stated that this decision was what the Framers of the Declaration of Independence would want because they obviously meant freedom only applied to the white man. Thankfully Lincoln saw through this false assumption by Douglas and ran against him. Now that you know a little of the background of this infamous case, let me tell you about Mark L. Shurtleff's new book, AM I NOT A MAN? The Dred Scott Story.

When I was first asked to review this book, I hesitated, not because of the content, but because right now I'm extremely busy...but knowing the importance of that major decision, which changed the course of our country, I knew I had to read this book. I am so glad I did!

Shurtleff masterfully takes the reader through many perspectives in his novel. He pulls you into Dred Scott's (born Sam Blow) world making you feel his despair and yearning to be free and thought of as a "man." Not only does Shurtleff show Dred Scott's point-of-view of the events, but also the point-of-views of several Founding Fathers, of the Blow family (those who thought Scott should be free and those who treated him as property), and others who were instrumental to this time in history and the Supreme Court case. Shurtleff gives much needed background to this story and shows how complicated the issue was and how good men became involved. I must be honest, at first I found the shifts in time and different character point-of-views a bit confusing, but I'm used to fast reads. This book is to be savored, studied, and contemplated. It needs to be digested to fully understand why people felt the way they did at that time. It is a brilliant novel which I highly recommend!!!

They say reading good books build character in the reader for they make us think of not only the story, but how it parallels our lives. There are scenes in this book I will long remember. They cling to me like patriot threads and help me realize there is always hope for those less fortunate in our country. There's hope in the American people and our ability to see our errors and set them aright. There's hope that the freedoms our Founding Father's fought so valiantly to protect will endure and that those who stood up to fight in the bloodiest war our nation has ever seen--The War Between the States--did not give their lives in vain. Yes, this book gives us hope.

I encourage you to read AM I NOT A MAN? The Dred Scott Story for you will come away understanding that if Sam Blow--an illiterate slave who was barely five feet tall but had the courage of a giant--can draw attention to injustice for the hope of freedom, we too, can influence those around us to be ever vigilent in protecting our constitution and freedoms.

FYI: Launch party for this book is November 3rd at the Gateway Barnes and Noble downtown Salt Lake City. Here's the address and agenda:

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
The Gateway
6 Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT

5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Calvary Baptist Choir
6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mark Shurtleff signs copies of his book
7:00 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. Alex Boye’ sings “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?”
7:05 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. Connie Hall reads her winning essay “Stand Up for Freedom”
7:10 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. Lynne Jackson (great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott)speaks
7:20 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Mark Shurtleff reads 1st Chapter and Q&A
8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Drawing for Grand Prize and signing of any last books
For more information, contact:
Candace E. Salima

(This book was published by Valor Publishing 2009 and sent to me free of charge.)


  1. Beautiful review, Kathi! Thanks!

  2. What a fantastic review, Kathi. Very well done. Thank you so much for reviewing Mark's book. I too feel it is extremely important and necessary for every American to read.

  3. By the way, I absolutely adore the layout for your blog. So clean, crisp and attractive. Nice choice!

  4. I'm glad you like the layout of my blog, Candace. It's always a work in progress. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. It's so interesting to read about this one... Mark Shurtleff is a friend, that used to live nearby us, here in Southern California. I didn't even know that he wrote a book... haven't kept up. But this sounds interesting. A novel, not non-fiction? Can't wait to read it.

  6. It's based on actual events and people. A great read. Makes you think about how far our country has come.



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