26 February 2010

Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story by Ruth Ann (Abels) Hager, CG, CGL


A new book, Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story by Ruth Ann (Abels) Hager, CG, CGL, has been published by St. Louis County Library and is available both online and at all of the St. Louis County Library branches. The price of the book is $25.00 + $3 shipping & handling. You can order it online from the library's Special Collections Department’s home page at www.slcl.org/branches/hq/sc/.

The library held an author event/book signing on Friday, 5 February. Lynne Jackson, great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet and President of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation offered introductory remarks and introduced author Ruth Ann Hager. Ms. Hager talked briefly about the book that evening, showed some key documents via PowerPoint, conducted a question and answer session, and then signed books.

Below is an excerpt from a review of this book by Julius K. Hunter, an award-winning broadcast journalist, author, educator, lecturer, musician, and founder of the Julius K. Hunter & Friends African American Research Collection at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters.

Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story, (St. Louis County Library, 2010) can save us from having to acknowledge what we didn’t learn in school about the landmark court case. In 2006, Hager distinguished herself by becoming the first historian of record to ever determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly where Dred’s wife, Harriet, is buried and when she died. For more than a century, historians have recorded (and we have learned) incorrect information about Harriet’s life and death.

Thankfully, the new book is much more than hard, boring, cold stats. The author gives us up close and very personal looks at the man himself, his wife Harriet, and their two young daughters, Eliza and Lizzie. After reading the book, I feel I was thoroughly prepared to sit down with either, or all of them and conduct a good television interview. Not only did Hager’s research turn up heretofore unpublished court documents and personal letters relative to the Dred Scott Decision, she was able to locate living descendants of Dred and Harriet. They were able to give the author unprecedented access to family photos, documents and share priceless stories that have passed directly down through the Scott family in insular fashion since the mid 19th century.

Hager’s meticulous research chronicles a painful roller coaster ride of enslavement, freedom, outright status confusion, glimmers of hope, and the devastating ruling that slammed the Scotts and slaves all of the nation. The dagger was thrown down by none other than the U.S. Supreme Court. You’ll find many more photocopies of actual corroborating documents and handwritten personal letters in this book than you will find in many other works of this ilk. Appendices, indices, and solid references abound. But if you are like me, you’re a bit more interested in the people parts of this intriguing saga. What were the Scotts like as a married couple? Did Dred display any personal and private reaction at home to being in the ignominious spotlight for so long? What were the ongoing thoughts of the two young and impressionable Scott girls during the family’s years of infamy? Who were the several owners of the Scotts, the attorneys who fought for and against manumission, and what were the politics of the Dred Scott Case – emanating from the Oval Office of the White House itself? You’ll find tantalizing profiles of these real-life characters … and much more as you read this fascinating new book. You’ll even find some well-placed touches of juicy gossip – rumored and documented - regarding some of the principals!

To read Mr. Hunter's entire review, visit www.juliuskhunter.com/bookreview.htm.

To order Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story by Ruth Ann (Abels) Hager, CG, CGL, go to www.slcl.org/branches/hq/sc/ or request it from other bookstores by referencing ISBN 0615327621.