Irresistible Community Builders, LLC presents: Mound City’s Best Kept Secret

Dred and Harriet Scott Their Family Story

by Tom Braford

Jasmin Aber, founder of the Creative Exchange Lab, recently hosted a webinar titled Monument I Anti-Monument that looked at who is remembered, who is hidden and who is forgotten in Monumental art. https://creativeexchangelab.com/monument-anti-monument/

Two friends were panelists: Lynne Jackson, great, great granddaughter of Harriet and Dred Scott, and Percy Green, one of St. Louis’ original civil rights activists. 

Percy said if he had known back in 1964 what he knows now about what was lost to build the Gateway Arch, he would have picked a different project to protest the lack of Black employment in St. Louis. 

The moderator said maybe he was just ahead of his time, staging an anti-monument protest, similar to turning the Robert E. Lee monument into a Black Lives Matter monument today.

Lynne spoke movingly about her illustrious ancestors and how they fought for their freedom, first at the Courthouse in St Louis and culminating in a US Supreme Court ruling so egregious that it brought Lincoln back into politics and ultimately played a role in fomenting the Civil War. 

For much of the 11 years that Harriet and Dred Scott fought their case, their teenaged daughters, Eliza and Lizzie, were believed to be in St. Louis but were nowhere to be found. By that time, it was no longer legal to import slaves from Africa so enslaved black women of childbearing age were in high demand in America. 

Lynne did not mention this unsolved mystery in her talk, but the story has haunted me ever since she told me about it a few years ago. To me, it so illustrates the value of Beloved Community in the darkest hours of our history. As a 74-year-old white man with roots on both sides of my family in both the North and the South going back to well before the revolution, I have to wonder what my real history is. Did my ancestors hold slaves, possibly even in Virginia where Harriet Scott came from?

So, I propose another kind of monument / anti-monument project as we launch the first of many Reconciliation Ecovillages. The board-ups on our buildings need refreshing, so I propose that they serve as a canvas for artists in a “Where in Mound City?” exhibit. Where were Eliza and Lizzie sheltered from harm in the 1850’s? Where are the children and adults now at risk of slavery of other forms being sheltered or in need of the shelter by Beloved Community in Mound City today?

It took a Community then and it will take a Community now, so we invite you to participate as an artist or a patron of the arts so the history of these unsung heroes of humanity and the unsung heroes of Community will be recognized at last.