ARTICLE FOR THE HISTORY MUSEUM/ST. LOUIS AMERICAN
August 10, 2017 Issue
By Lynne Madison Jackson
Over the last 10 years, the historical foundations and subsequent shaping of our country have been highlighted through a series of events starting in 2007 with the 150th Anniversary of the Dred Scott Decision of 1857.
Close on its heals were re-enactments of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates which coincided with one of the largest gatherings in downtown St Louis, the campaign visit of then future president, Barack Obama. The irony of electing the first Black president on the cusp of the 150th anniversary of that Supreme Court decision deemed the worst decision of all, did not go unnoticed. For many, there was hope in the air and yet even now, we do not have the harmony among the peoples most have longed for. Soon thereafter in 2011, was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, next year will be the 14th Amendment’s big anniversary – the citizenship or Dred Scott Amendment. We are now looking at the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses posted by Martin Luther this October 2017, which brought clarity to many and still today, confusion among religious faiths looms large. How timely, to have occasions to look back and ask ourselves, where along the journey are we now, in “getting there?”
Three years ago, Ferguson, MO became a household word, not just nationally but globally. Once again, St. Louis will be remembered for a race issue which cannot be ignored but had to be dealt with. After the indignity of the 1857 decision, a civil war was imperative as was predicted by many noted statesmen. After August 9, 2014, with Dred Scott’s resting place only 3 miles from Ferguson, we were made painfully aware that humanity has still many lessons to learn.
On Saturday, August 12, the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation is presenting a current look at where some of us are three years after our cities were once again in the limelight. The Dred Scott 160th Anniversary Festival of Freedom will feature a day long fun, historic and educational opportunity for everyone, young and old. The Foundation has three pillars it promotes: Commemoration, Education and Reconciliation. In collaboration with the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and sponsoring support of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C., we will present an encore panel of five descendants of families whose ancestors greatly impacted the nation’s story around the Dred Scott Decision. From Thomas Jefferson to Jefferson Davis, stories will be shared on how these families are educating for the purpose of reconciliation. This encore panel will surprise and give hope to anyone who is wondering, “how can this work?”
Kate Taney Billingsley (yes, the same Taney) and the St. Louis Black Rep are presenting her powerful play on what a contemporary meeting of descendants of Dred Scott and Justice Taney might be like.
My presentation on the St. Louis fun facts surrounding history of Dred Scott will include information never before shared.
We will celebrate the fact that Dred and Harriet, although denied in the courts, DID receive their freedom from slavery after helping pave the way for the freedom of millions. With the help of the Blow family who was very instrumental in making that happen, learn more of this inspiring story.
Why do we remind ourselves of history? We have all heard the clichés and quotes, most notably, “ ……..we are doomed to repeat it…….” But do we even recognize when that is happening? Many wonderful organizations exist in this community to break the cycle of fear, hate, misunderstanding and disunity. As we continue to collaborate, it is our hope to show what happens when we take time out, stop, listen talk and share. I was told by two people, regarding the Taney and Davis families, “I don’t know if I want to meet “those” people.” Did you hear it? Upon sharing with them, a great light came on and a new working relationship was born. We remind ourselves of history so we can create a better future.
We invite you to come hear the contemporary stories of reconciliation and hard work to bring hope and unity to a divided land. Lincoln’s famous House Divided Speech came directly from the Bible in Mark 3:25 “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand….”. None of us is Lincoln, but let’s do our part to preserve the Union and heal the kingdom in such a time as this.
Additional Freedom Festival features and highlight links: