Dred Scott, Master P and the Case for Freedom : Tell Me More Last week, a House subcommittee heard from Master P, David Banner and others in response to those who say music is coarsening the culture... Agree, disagree?
NPR logo Dred Scott, Master P and the Case for Freedom

Dred Scott, Master P and the Case for Freedom

October 1. Wow. Does anybody else have the feeling this year is racing toward its conclusion? Maybe it's the fake Christmas trees that have already started popping-up at my local drug store.

But it's all good, especially when you can start a week the way we just did — with Master P and California GOP lawmaker Rep. Cliff Stearns talking about hip-hop.

Last week, as you may have heard, members of Congress held a hearing to talk about ongoing concerns many have expressed about the way the music is coarsening the culture. Master P, (Percy Miller) as you may remember, was one of the masters of the so-called gangsta rap genre. He's now a force in the second generation of artists through his son Romeo (formerly Lil' Romeo). But now, P says, things have just gone too far and it's time to grow up and move on.

Agree, disagree?

David Banner (Levell Crump) begged to differ in his testimony, arguing that these images represent reality as some artists experience it, and that lawmakers have no business getting in the way.

We only scratched the surface of this discussion, which is ongoing. But I do feel it was refreshing to hear both an industry voice and an atypical (i.e. Republican) voice talking about an issue that affects everyone within earshot of a radio.

On to the Supreme Court ...

A preview of the upcoming session, and a history lesson: If you know even a tiny bit about history, you've heard the name Dred Scott. He was the enslaved American who fought for his freedom, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court ... and was denied. The decision came down 150 years ago this year (in March actually, but who's counting?). His great-great-granddaughter, Lynn Jackson, was with us to fill out the personal story of the man who took such a bold step to secure his and, even more importantly, his family's freedom. You don't often hear about the family.

I think at a time when we are talking about the breakdown of the family and what the culture may have to do with it, it's worth noting that Scott's fight was less for himself because he did not want his children to live as fugitives.

... But let her tell it. Here's my producer's notes from her conversation with Lynn Jackson, who still lives in the St. Louis area:

I am one of several great-great-granddaughters; the mantle has been passed along to me; my father used to be the family spokesperson, and then he retired about a dozen years ago.

Most Americans don't really know the Dred Scott story. Even a very educated attorney will only recall the basics — that he was a slave who sued for his freedom and lost. But the story itself, and the details — why he sued, how he sued ... It took eleven years and five trials. The American people don't realize how dangerous this was for him.

At first, he tried to buy his freedom. He saved and saved, and offered the widow of his owner money to buy his freedom. Dred Scott was only one of 300 slaves who had filed for their freedom. The large number of cases brought by slaves had made the Missouri Supreme Court wary. The state was severely divided over the issue of slavery, and still lives with that legacy.

His first and original intention was to free his family. The same determination runs in our blood. He felt that the courts were the way that any other man would have done it. He didn't want to run ... not with a wife and two young girls.