The Sherburne History Center is hosting a monthly book club. As we read the books for the club, I will try to post some thoughts about the book. This coming month, in March, we are discussing Northern Slave Black Dakota The Life and Times of Joseph Godfrey by Walt Bachman.
Walt Bachman presents some interesting ideas with this book. Perhaps the most startling of his many thoughts concerns the treatment of blacks in Minnesota before the Civil War. We all know from high school history that Minnesota was part of the Northwest Ordinance and therefore slavery was outlawed. Bachman makes the point that just because it is illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Joseph Godfrey, the focus of this book, was a slave in Minnesota until he escaped and lived with the Dakota Native American group. Although this seems to be common sense after all Dred Scott was a slave in Minnesota and inspired the 1850s lawsuit. But Bachman, in this book brings home the point very well. To further reinforce this, he makes the point that Godfrey was in fear of his freedom beyond 1862! And because he participated in the Dakota Uprising he was imprisoned until 1867.
Also interesting is the point made by Bachman that Joseph Godfrey is neither a free Minnesotan, nor is he truly Dakota. Joseph Godfrey doesn't belong; he is alone in the world. And his story is a tale of one man simply trying to survive in spite of impossible circumstances.
There are some interesting ideas and thoughts in these pages. The author challenges us to rethink our history and possibly reconsider some of what we have learned.
Published in 2013, this book is a fascinating bit of research. Although a bit difficult to obtain, and expensive, if you can borrow this book from a library, or a friend, it is well worth the read. The cover price is $34.95 for the hardback copy. Many friends regard me as overly frugal. I generally don’t spend more than $20 on a book. The publisher needs to bring the price of this book down.