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Dred Scott Descendant Lynne M. Jackson On Honoring Family Legacy And Learning From The Past

Erin Williams


As the great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott, the slave whose decision to sue for his freedom led to the Supreme Court decision that African Americans weren’t protected under the constitution, Lynne M. Jackson is well-aware of her relative’s place in history – and doesn’t want anyone to forget why their family’s story is important. The landmark case ofDred Scott vs. Sanford opened the doors to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which abolished slavery and outlawed voting discrimination, and laid the foundation for modern day civil rights. 

“Dred and Harriet could have said ‘We’re tired…’ But they were not free, and they knew that their daughters would not be free, so their fight was to the finish, and yet it opened up so that it affected everyone,” said Jackson, who participated in a discussion at Laumeier Sculpture Park for the exhibit ‘The River Between Us,’ which focuses on the historical connections of St. Louis and New Orleans, with both cities tied to the Mississippi River.

Jackson created the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation in 2006 as a way to honor her family’s legacy and to ensure that their story would continue to be shared with the world. Beyond research, Jackson oversaw the campaign to erect a Dred and Harriet Scott statue in St. Louis, where their case was first tried in 1847. The statue wasunveiled in 2012 and is located in downtown St. Louis in front of the Historic Old Courthouse. In 2013, another statue of Scott was unveiled along with one of Homer Plessy in the work ‘The Space Between Scott and Plessy,’ as part of ‘The River Between Us.’  Plessy, also an African American, made history in 1892 by riding a train for white passengers. The Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court case led to the practice of “separate but equal,” which was struck down in 1954 by the school desegregation ruling for Brown vs. Board of Education. Both were created by artist Ken Lum.

Credit Erin Williams
'The Space Between Scott and Plessy,' by Ken Lum at Laumeier Sculpture Park as part of the exhibiiton 'The Space Between Us.'

“As people have said – if you don’t know the past, you’re prone to repeat it. It’s not just history – it’s people, it’s courage. It’s the abolitionists, it’s the politicians. All of these things are patterns in history, and those patterns can be repeated. That is not something we want to do,” says Jackson, who lives in St. Louis County.  She travels and speaks on behalf of the Foundation, and is continuing to carry the movement  forward. “It’s OUR story – black, white, Hispanic, Native American, on and on – it’s our story. This was a linchpin in history. It was a pivotal time that changed the course of our nation.”

‘The River Between Us’  will remain on view through August 25 at Laumeier Scultpure Park.