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Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery's Frontier Paperback – October 28, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0199754083 ISBN-10: 019975408X Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (October 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019975408X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199754083
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.3 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,959,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In a remarkable act of historical recovery, VanderVelde resurrects the life of Harriet Scott."--Martha A. Sandweiss, The Washington Post

"Through Harriet Scott's life, the author is able to create a valuable portrait of the development of slavery on the U.S. frontier during an era in which that scourge was leading the country toward civil war. Despite the wealth of historical knowledge presented, the heart of this well-researched work is the tragic tale of how a loving family's effort to gain their freedom was brutally rejected by Supreme Court justices bent on maintaining the institution of slavery at all costs. Essential for academic libraries and highly recommended for public libraries."--Library Journal, starred review

"Groundbreaking.... Mrs. Dred Scott is a sophisticated reconstruction revealing a fundamental dimension of the Dred Scott saga." --Books & Culture

"Utilizing a wide array of primary and secondary sources, VanderVelde pieces together an amazing amount of detail surrounding Harriet's life despite the lack of direct source material from Harriet herself.... Mrs. Dred Scott truly is history from the bottom up as its best."--Sharon A. Roger Hepburn, Civil War Book Review

"This is an extraordinary piece of historical research. In Mrs. Dred Scott, Lea VanderVelde provides, for the first time, a full picture of the role and significance of Scott's wife, Harriet Robinson Scott, in one of the most important cases ever decided by the Supreme Court. VanderVelde presents a powerful description of the Scotts' experiences at various military posts on the rough northwest frontier. In doing so, she adds an important dimension to understanding Justice Taney's opinion in the Dred Scott case."--Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

"The fascinating, fact-filled story of an illiterate slave woman who sued persistently for her freedom over an eleven-year period and gained it in the end -- no thanks to the most notorious Supreme Court decision in U.S. history."--Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

"Lea VanderVelde reminds us of what lawyers too often forget, that very real human beings are the subjects of the 'great cases' of constitutional law. Among the human beings involved in the infamous Dred Scott case was Harriet Scott, Dred's wife. Given the paucity of conventional materials about specific slaves, VanderVelde does a remarkable job of historical excavation to reconstruct the circumstances of her life. She illuminates American social, as well as legal, history. A bravura performance!"--Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School and author of Our Undemocratic Constitution

"Lea VanderVelde wisely appreciates the significance of lives that have long been invisible to historians and constitutional scholars. She has worked with diligence and ingenuity to recover the lost voice of Harriet Robinson Scott. Our understanding of the Supreme Court's infamous and consequential decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford will be forever changed and profoundly enriched by her work."--Peggy Cooper Davis, author of Neglected Stories: The Constitution and Family Values

"VanderVelde is to be congratulated for uncovering every possible source that could shed light on Harriet [Scott's] life." -- American Historical Review

VanderVelde does what no other biographer has. She places Mrs. Dred Scott at the center of a well-known moment in American history for a greater understanding of the "significant efforts by subordinate individuals to influence the circumstances of their lives." -- Journal of American History

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

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

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Louie VanReed on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Erase what you think you know about slavery, the Western frontier, the politics and the people who lived our history during the forty years prior to the Civil War, and do yourself a favor. Read this book. Ten years in the making, author Lea VanderVelde may well have written what is beyond any doubt the most important and thorough work on the personal lives of Harriet and Dred Scott that exists today. Ms. VanderVelde goes where few authors of historic works dare to go; she lifts her subjects from the text and revives them into the context of the events going on around them, balancing her meticulous research with insight and logic to draw some of the most realistic, moving, uncomfortable, and absorbing portraits of Harriet, Dred, Major Lawrence Taliaferro, John Emerson and others that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Her writing style is fluid, involving, and conveys her passion and commitment to telling Dred and Harriet's story the way it should be told. I had to put it down every few pages and step away to digest the implications of what I was reading. A surprising work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mimjo on September 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We learn more than I thought possible about Dred Scott's wife. Vandervelde has assembled a picture of her life by delving deeply into the social and political history of her times. fascinating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Bates on July 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't finished the book, but it's well-written and fascinating: Not only a glimpse of a slave's life in a Northern household, but also of life at the leading edge of the frontier in Minnesota. Recommended for anybody who likes American history.
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By Dandelion on December 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Who knew Dred Scott even had a wife? VanderVelde explains slavery at Fort Snelling (MN), Harriet Scott & the Supreme Court case
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