Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery's Frontier

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Oxford University Press, Feb 17, 2009 - History - 496 pages
Among the most infamous U.S. Supreme Court decisions is Dred Scott v. Sandford . Despite the case's signal importance as a turning point in America's history, the lives of the slave litigants have receded to the margins of the record, as conventional accounts have focused on the case's judges and lawyers. In telling the life of Harriet, Dred's wife and co-litigant in the case, this book provides a compensatory history to the generations of work that missed key sources only recently brought to light. Moreover, it gives insight into the reasons and ways that slaves used the courts to establish their freedom. A remarkable piece of historical detective work, Mrs. Dred Scott chronicles Harriet's life from her adolescence on the 1830s Minnesota-Wisconsin frontier, to slavery-era St. Louis, through the eleven years of legal wrangling that ended with the high court's notorious decision. The book not only recovers her story, but also reveals that Harriet may well have been the lynchpin in this pivotal episode in American legal history. Reconstructing Harriet Scott's life through innovative readings of journals, military records, court dockets, and even frontier store ledgers, VanderVelde offers a stunningly detailed account that is at once a rich portrait of slave life, an engrossing legal drama, and a provocative reassessment of a central event in U.S. constitutional history. More than a biography, the book is a deep social history that freshly illuminates some of the major issues confronting antebellum America, including the status of women, slaves, Free Blacks, and Native Americans.
 

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User Review  - 77nanci - LibraryThing

Scholarly research, fascinating topic, truly awful writing. Author pieces together grocery lists and other scraps of contemporaneous writings to show st Louis in the 1850,s and the legal frontier of slaves And freemen that are the back drop of the dred Scott supreme court case. Read full review

Mrs. Dred Scott: a life on slavery's frontier

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Although a co-litigant with her husband in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sandford, Harriet Robinson Scott has been largely ignored in the historical literature. VanderVelde (law ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
1 Wife of a Celebrity
9
Arriving on the Frontier
13
3 Settling In
21
4 Entertaining Guests at the Indian Agency
31
5 Late Summer Harvest
43
6 Wintering Over at St Peters Agency
52
7 Winters Deep
58
20 The House of Chouteau
188
21 Black Social Life of St Louis
193
22 The Doctor Returns
200
Jefferson Barracks between Wars of National Expansion
205
24 Dred with the Army of Observation and Harriet with the Children in St Louis
219
25 The Courthouse and the Jail
233
26 Other Matters at the Courthouse
244
27 Filing Suit Again
257

Spring and the Change of the Guard
67
9 Celestial Explorers
85
10 The Call of the Wood as a Prelude to Treaty
96
A Treaty Made before Her Eyes
104
Together Alone
115
13 Traveling the Length of the River
127
14 A New Baby in a New Land
137
15 The Deteriorating Community
145
16 Battles and Baptisms
154
17 Taliaferros Last Stand
162
18 Leaving Minnesota and Its New Tribunals
168
St Louis 184043
176
Trial by Pestilence Trial by Fire
267
29 Declared Free
276
30 Missouri Changes Its Course
288
31 Before the High Court
305
32 Aftermath and Epilogue
320
Appendix
325
Acknowledgments
327
Notes
329
Bibliography
443
Captions and Credits
467
Index
469
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Lea VanderVelde is Josephine Witte Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

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