It is a wonderful thing that Dred and Harriet Scott were chosen to be erected in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse in Florence, Alabama. As important as their case was and as central as it was to this nation, I respect that Ms. Odessa Bailey may have a different position as stated in her op-ed on May 28. It is likely that she and those who share her position may indeed get that done someday.
However, her optics about Dred Scott do not give her much credibility for her position against his proposed statue. Dred Scott’s name is obviously attached to the case which is iconic and known as the worst U.S. Supreme Court case ever rendered.
The case was an affront to the dignity of Mr. Scott and all persons descended from Africa. This blanket and summary pronouncement was a lynchpin in our nation’s history which affected every American regardless of race. History affirms Lincoln’s change of heart to run for office because of the decision; secession and the Civil War followed. In 1868 the 14th Amendment --also called the Dred Scott Amendment--overturned the Dred Scott decision and gave citizenship rights to all persons born in the United States.
Ms. Bailey would much rather see someone educated and someone of stature. However, even our local middle school students recognized the importance of Dred Scott as they tie-dyed Dred Scott T-shirts this past spring with his image that says, “Stature, not status, determines greatness.”
There are certainly many notable men and women whose statues we would enjoy seeing across this land. That is no reason to mischaracterize two courageous enslaved persons who, in a dangerous environment and without the freedoms and resources of say, an activist “born free”, to successful parents, persisted 11 years for rights that enslaved people were denied and that we today have access to because they continued to persist. To denigrate the Scotts sounds like an “us versus them” scenario of class distinctions when, in fact, their stories depict the progress from captivity and hardship to earned and well-deserved success.
Because the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation’s mission is about commemoration, education and reconciliation, I endorse the plans of Project Say Something to erect only the second Dred and Harriet Scott statue in the nation. We installed the first on June 8, 2012. I continue to share their true story, correcting errors and misunderstandings about the case and the family.
Lynne M. Jackson
Great-great granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott-President and Founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation
St. Louis, MO