By Sally Tippett Rains
Issues of race have become a big part of sports this year. As some athletes are choosing to use their platform to react publicly to various news stories and bring the cause of social justice into the sports world– local St. Louis native Lynne Jackson wants to be sure people are getting their facts right– and actually learning about and from black history. She has spent a lifetime learning about her famous great-great-grandfather Dred Scott and she wants to help educate others about this important element of black history, which is ultimately the history of America– through the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation, based in St. Louis.
Dred Scott is one of the most famous people in Missouri and US history, and it is fitting that the his great-great granddaughter paid tribute to him on the anniversary of his death, Sept. 17, 1858 with a way we can all pitch in and help preserve his memory.
September 17 is also Constitution Day, honoring the day the Founding Fathers who signed the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The 14th amendment extending liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves was passed in 1866 and ratified in 1868– 10 years after the death of Dred Scott..
Though we all know basically who he was, did you know Dred Scott is buried in St. Louis, but there is no history marker to direct you to his grave? With all the cries to take statues down– maybe it’s time to get on board with helping an organization who recently put a statue up and now they want to help educate people while bringing them together.
Jackson along with the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation are kicking off a Go-Fund Me campaign to help improve Dred Scott’s grave in Calvary Cemetery to be more impactful, where fans can come and learn about how his life impacted America.
Though he died in 1858 of tuberculosis, it was 100 years before his family even knew where he was buried.
It was 1957 on Ashland Street in the Ville area of St. Louis, MO when John Madison received notice from a catholic priest. His daughter knew something very exciting had happened but was far too young to understand. Turns out that the priest had information for them; he had found her great-great-grandfather’s grave at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.
Once the family heard his amazing news, they went to see the unmarked grave. They took a picture (shown left)with him and the discovery was published in the Ebony Magazine. Can you imagine that? With the impact that Dred Scott’s life had on history, no one even knew where he was buried.
To the Madison family, it was personal finding their forefather who had lived in the 1800’s, but to the rest of the world, their ancestor is one of the most famous people to come out of the St Louis area and wind up in the history books.
Dred Scott, most will remember, was the slave who sued for his freedom and his case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. School children in St. Louis are always interested to find out the case started in their city at the Old Courthouse in downtown.
For being such a noteworthy historic figure, the grave is simple, but it was interesting to find out that it was purchased by descendants of the Blow family—the family who originally “owned” him and then later helped him get his freedom.
Years later that five-year-old girl in the picture who is now Lynne Madison Jackson– is on a mission to get her great-great-grandfather a new memorial. As Abraham Lincoln would have said, “It is altogether fitting and proper” that she should do this. Lincoln, the 16th U.S. President used those words in his Gettysburg Address. His Emancipation Proclamation eventually freed the slaves.
Though the Dred Scott Decision is mentioned briefly in many elementary school history books, there has been little historical information known about it. School children have taken field trips to the Old Courthouse and have been told about it, but until Lynne Jackson and her parents, John and Marcy Madison, started the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation, there was really not much known about Dred Scott, the man.
The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation has two websites, one an archives and the other telling about all they are doing in a “content-rich” experience that seeks to inform and educate the public about Dred Scott, his family, and the impact their lives have on the current times.
The foundation seeks to bring people together to learn about history and reconciliation. Jackson has been involved in bringing many people together including descendants of arch enemies and unlikely friends.
For their 10th anniversary, they had an all-day conference featuring (in photo shown left courtesy Dred Scott Foundation and Times Newspapers)
In the photo, left, from left to right John LeBourgeois, descendants of the Blow family; Paster Sylvester Turner, Charlie Taney, great-great-nephew of Judge Taney.– the judge who ruled against Dred Scott; Lynne Jackson; Shannon Lanier, sixth-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sallie Hemmings, Ashton LeBourgeois; and Bertram Hayes Davis, a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
In 2010, famed sculptor Harry Weber was commissioned to create the first statue of Dred and Harriet Scott in the world. It only took two years for them to raise the $250,000 needed for the statue, and on June 8, 2012 it was dedicated on the southeast enclave of the Old Courthouse.
That day, cousins Lynne and Dred Scott Madison II, Supt. Thomas Bradley of the National Parks Service and Weber unveiled the statue on the south lawn of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. The Scotts are depicted standing close, holding their heads high, their eyes directed not only Arch-ward and across the Mississippi River, but toward a horizon of freedom in which they believed enough to one day finally see. Now when the school children or anyone else visit the Old Courthouse, they see a Dred Scott exhibit inside along with the statue.
“We are raising funds to beautify and enlarge Dred Scott’s gravesite,” said Jackson. “Right now, it is modest, a little hard to find, and under 3 feet tall. It is already a destination where tourists and St. Louisans come to pay their respects. Soon we hope to have a new memorial where people can learn the full history behind Dred Scott.”
Growing up in the city of St. Louis, not far from the famous Sumner High School, she seldom thought of the magnitude of being a descendant of Dred Scott. She enjoyed reading, cooking, babysitting and riding her bicycle like any other kid growing up. She also liked skating, took classical piano lessons, and went to Sunday School. Church and family were very important in the Madison family. When they vacationed, it was to visit her cousins and family in Grand Rapids and Chicago.
Of course, she heard about Dred Scott in school at Northwest High and she knew that he was in her family.
“I realized he was a slave who sued for his freedom,” she said. “And I knew he lost and it had something to do with causing the Civil War. I had not connected all the dots”
That is pretty much what most people knew, but there is so much more to the story. There are interesting St. Louis connections; the famous children’s poet Eugene Field’s father, Roswell Field, was one of Dred Scott’s lawyers. And from the Blow family who owned him—we know Susan Blow who started the first kindergarten in the United States; and she started it in St. Louis.
Lynne Jackson comes from a pretty remarkable line. She was asked to be involved in the FirstWomanVoter.com project where people Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Michele Obama, and others spotlight the first woman in their family to vote.
Her grandmother Grace Cross Madison, who was born in 1890, was the first woman in her family to vote– and of course being related to Dred Scott her voting was remarkable for both reasons, she was black and she was a woman. Grace was 30 years old in 1920 when women got the right to vote and she knew how important it was.
Jackson’s father was John A. Madison, Jr., J.D. and was well-known in the area. He graduated from Lincoln Law School and Harris Teacher’s College, now Harris Stowe State University.
“Everybody knew him,” she remembered. “He was the sixth of seven children and because of his interest and background, was the family spokesman. He made sure our family was grounded in history.”
One episode that happened when she was four also stands out in her mind.
“When I was a child, there was a big event at the Old Courthouse downtown,” she said. “I remember I knew it was important.”
March 6, 1957 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Dred Scott v. Sandford Supreme Court Decision (known as the Dred Scott Decision) which was handed down by Chief Justice Roger Taney. His opinion in the case declared that slaves were not citizens of the United States and as such could not sue in Federal courts.
Here it was 100 years later, and John Madison, the great-grandson of a slave, was a teacher, was becoming a lawyer, worked at the Post Office and bought his own home. The significance of the commemoration was not lost on Lynne’s parents, even if she may have been too young to have much impactful memory of the day.
Her parents took her and her and her baby brother John. Her mother, Marcy Madison, an R.N. eventually bore two more sibling for Lynne and John; Marcy and Michael but they had not yet been born.
Just as Lynne Jackson learned as a child, this historic decision had a direct impact on the coming of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s presidency four years later.
“There are two clauses in the Constitution which point directly and specifically to the negro race as a separate class of persons, and show clearly that they were not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed,” said Judge Taney in the arguments.
While it is hard to read those words, written so long ago, Lynne Jackson has set her life’s work on reconciliation. Commemoration, education and reconciliation are the goals of the Dred Scott Foundation, for which she serves as the Executive Director.
In March of 2017, descendants of both the Scott families and Taney families met in Maryland, next to a statue of Judge Taney. The statue had been erected because Taney, who lived in Maryland had been the chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1836 until his death in 1864.
“You can’t hide from the words that [Judge Roger] Taney wrote. You can’t run, you can’t hide, you can’t look away. You have to face them,” said Charlie Taney.
And then, on behalf of his family, he apologized in public. Lynne Jackson was there and he turned to her with a sincere apology for all the “terrible injustices of the Dred Scott decision.”
The story was recounted in the Washington Post about how Jackson accepted the apology for her family and “all African Americans who have the love of God in their heart so that healing can begin.”
It was a day she will never forget.
Jackson, an SIU-Edwardsville BSBA graduate, has worked in business administration and marketing throughout her career, including working as Business Operations Director for the Girl Scout Council of St. Louis and General Services Manager for the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
After college graduation, she married her husband Brian, a graduate of Missouri Institute of Science and Technology, which was the University of Missouri at Rolla back then. He spent many years in corporate before becoming an entrepreneur and together they have raised a son and a daughter.
In 1995 she says she was “led by the Holy Spirit to study about Dred Scott.” She spent 10 years researching her family history and the role her famous ancestor played in history. In 2005 she decided to start the Foundation and it has been a whirlwind ever since.
Fast-forward to 2007, when she met the Rev. Nicholas Inman of Marshfield, MO.
“I read an article where she was mentioned and I called her at work (Bryan Cave),” said Inman, who is the founder and president of the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield. “She attended the festival to accept a star on the walk of fame for Dred Scott.”
Every year she puts on a seminar or panel called the Dred Scott Reconciliation Forum. The festival was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 but it would have been the 10th consecutive forum she has presented at.
“Lynne Jackson is a true friend,” said Nicholas Inman. “She has been a great supporter and promoter of the Cherry Blossom Festival.”
She is so driven with ideas on how to bring the story of Dred Scott to school children and everyone interested in history that she sometimes has several projects going at once.
One of those projects she is working on is to get the USPS to create a commemorative Dred Scott stamp. No, he doesn’t have one, believe it or not In order to help rectify that, many signatures are needed and the Foundation is involved with trying to make the Dred Scott postage stamp a reality.
(Click here to sign petition:) https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfmbICH0LpBcLUJ22yNV7j9EvhrjpV05Vl2V0FiqZenWRQhnw/viewform
Jackson has an interest in reading and literacy. She created a Dred Scott Activity and Coloring book for children of all ages. The book not only teaches about her great-great-grandfather but one of its goals is to give children a simple book to read and get the idea of why he is important.
Recently she has collaborated with Dr. Almeda Lahr-Well, founder of Lahr-Well Christian Academy (www.lahrwellacademy.org) to teach reading skills to the illiterate and with Dr. Kelly Byrd, founder of Love for Literacy (https://loveforliteracy.org/) to promote family literacy.
“Love for Literacy seeks to shine a light on the importance of black family literacy experiences and its role in literacy development in children,” said Jackson. “I am concerned for the children who are not being taught phonics. When you are taught by sight words, that is not sounding out the words or learning the mechanics of reading and soon enough some find they cannot read.”
The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation calls their new reading initiative “Reading: A Civil Right.” It will officially launch in 2021.
In August of 2020, Rainbows for Kids became the first recipient of a donation from Reading: A Civil Right. Just an hour after the books were dropped off at the Dream and Wonder Room, a special facility for safe, social distancing activities for the charity, a sixth grade boy got the opportunity to read the Dred Scott activity book.
“Lynne is a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to preserving the history of her ancestors,” said Inman. “She works tirelessly.”
Jackson recognized Inman’s love of history and asked him to be on her board of directors.
She recently received two national media spotlights. Lynne was on The Today Show with Harry Smith of NBC on a segment that ran on August 24, 2020. It featured St. Louis’ civil rights history, specifically about Dred Scott and Ferguson, MO.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Lynne was also one of the notable women highlighted to talk about the first woman voter in their families. (Firstwomanvoter.com)
In her latest passion she is focused on raising the needed funds to create a new Dred Scott Memorial gravesite in a new location at Calvary Cemetery.
While Jackson appreciates the current marker and will continue to cherish it, especially as to how it came about, her vision is a more prominent grave and one more easy to find.
“The people who bought Dred Scott’s original grave were descendants of the family who bought his freedom,” said Jackson.
Tourists know he is buried in Calvary and we want them to have a more personal experience and to come away with a greater comprehension.”
With all that has happened in the world and to Lynne Jackson in her life, that day long ago when the Jesuit priest showed her family Dred Scott’s unmarked grave will always remain in her mind.
“He told my father he found the grave in Calvary Cemetery,” she remembered.
In the late 1990s she found that priest’s statement where he mentioned somebody could replace the “simple but dignified” headstone someday.
“I never could have dreamed then that the somebody might be me.”
For more information on the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation CLICK HERE
GO FUND ME for Dred Scott Cemetery Memorial