3 out of 4 stars
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Am I Not a Man?: The Dred Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff is a work of fiction that channels real-life events to paint explicit pictures of the unusual events surrounding a black man who, in the 19th century, sued for his freedom in the highest court in the United States: the Supreme Court.
Following George Blow's move to Virginia from England in 1632 as a servant and his journey towards establishing his family and meeting his descendant, Peter Blow, in 1799, we witness the birth of Dred Scott, a slave born into the Blow family, coinciding with the "Father of the Declaration of Independence" Thomas Jefferson's visit to the Blow family house. At the same time, we follow Abraham Lincoln's story, from his ancestor, Samuel Lincoln, moving to Massachusetts to him contesting in the presidential election as his fate as a presidential aspirant was inextricably intertwined with the court's decision over Dred Scott's case, passed by Chief Justice Roger Taney.
Am I Not a Man? showcases the tedious work the author has put into research to get all the details in history that form the core of this story. There are quite a lot of emotional moments, both happy and sad, that revolve around Dred before and during his fight for freedom, and there are numerous lessons that will be learned by readers and are relevant to society today, especially at a time when division seems to be a major problem. The main and my favorite lesson illustrates the importance of working together and loving each other regardless of ethnic or racial differences, as the Blow family treated Dred like family. While they eventually sold him to settle debts, they still offered to buy his freedom from his wicked masters later in the story and used their funds and connections to help Dred sue when his masters refused to let him go, even when they stood to lose a lot from that association. We also get to see both "Whites" and "Blacks" work together to defeat the British in the war in 1812.
The story is told in the third person, and the author does very well in employing a descriptive style of writing that focuses on the characters' emotions, especially in powerful scenes, like when Dred achieved some goals, and dreadful scenes, like when Dred was whipped mercilessly. Poems written by the characters are also included at different points of the story to help them express their emotions clearly. It was very easy to relate and connect to the main characters, especially Dred and Harriet Scott, and their circumstances.
Furthermore, the book explores some of the characters' faith in God amidst hard times and includes elements from the Bible story in which Moses was sent to free the Israelites from slavery, which was integral to them having hope that they could become free one day.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was the number of punctuation errors I found. Most of them were comma errors, and while I could read through them easily, they occurred often. For this reason, I rate Am I Not a Man? 3 out of 4 stars. Besides the errors, the book is well executed, educative on vital periods and people in U.S. history, and engaging. There is profanity included, but violent scenes are not descriptive, which I hinted at earlier. If you enjoy historical fiction, this story of love, faith, perseverance, tolerance, and fate is a must-read for you.
Am I Not a Man?
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