Dred Scott descendant Lynne M. Jackson tells RootsTech audience about her journey of reconciliation

Following a spiritual prompting to research her 2nd great-grandfather, Jackson embarked on a journey of researching, commemorating and making peace with her family history

Lynne M. Jackson — a great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott, two Black slaves at the center of a landmark 1857 United States Supreme Court decision — took the stage at RootsTech on Friday, March 1, to tell her story of researching, commemorating and making peace with her family history.

Jackson said that in 1995, she heard her Heavenly Father tell her that she should study Dred Scott. As she embarked on her research, she began to discover for herself the significance of her ancestors’ experiences.

Dred and Harriet Scott fought an 11-year court battle to sue for their freedom, until Chief Justice Roger Taney in 1857 declared that they, as Black people, had no rights under the United States Constitution. The decision was a major catalyst for the U.S. Civil War, after which slavery was abolished.

Dred Scott was born in Virginia and later enslaved to Peter Blow. Several of Blow’s children, who did not own slaves, would later help finance the Scotts’ court case. After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Dred Scott was deeded to Taylor Blow and subsequently freed just before his death in 1858.

Jackson started the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation in 2006 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision. She decided that the pillars of the foundation would be commemoration, education and reconciliation.

Keynote speaker Lynne M. Jackson speaks at RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2024, about her ancestors Dred and Harriet Scott. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

Calling reconciliation the “very powerful thing” the foundation does, Jackson tours often with Charlie Taney, a great-great nephew of Chief Justice Rogers, to tell the story of how their families eventually came together.

Jackson told Church News that before the two families met each other, Taney’s daughter, Kate Taney Billingsley, wrote a play, at the time called “A Man of His Time,” about a Taney descendant meeting with a Scott descendant to try to offer an apology for the actions of their ancestor. The play premiered in 2016. The Taneys searched for real Scott descendants to invite them to watch the play and made contact with Jackson, who had been looking for the Taney family for over a decade. The play was expanded and renamed “American Rot,” premiering on March 14, 2024, in New York City.

Inspired by the play his daughter wrote, Charlie Taney offered a formal public apology to the Dred and Harriet Scott family on March 6, 2017.

Jackson said she told Taney that an apology was unnecessary, saying that she does not hold his family accountable for the actions of his ancestor. He felt, however, that it was an important step forward.

Jackson said that reconciliation comes through one side admitting a wrong was committed and the other side being willing to forgive.

“It takes both sides to come together,” Jackson said.

Jackson finished her speech by encouraging attendees to use the genealogical resources available to them, love one another and “enjoy this journey.”

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Ahead of RootsTech keynote, Dred Scott descendant talks unity, reconciliation and family history
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