Death of an Overseer by Michael Wayne
Reopening a Murder Investigation from the Plantation South

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Synopsis

In May of 1857, the body of Duncan Skinner was found in a strip of woods along the edge of the plantation near Natchez, Mississippi, where he worked as an overseer. Although a coroner's jury initially ruled his death to be accidental, an investigation organized by planters from the community concluded that he had been murdered by three slaves acting under instructions from John McCallin, an Irish carpenter.
Now, almost a century and a half later, Michael Wayne has reopened the case to ask whether the men involved in the investigation arrived at the right verdict. Part essay on the art of historical detection, part seminar on the history of slavery and the Old South, Death of an Overseer is, above all, a murder mystery--a murder mystery that allows readers to sift through the surviving evidence themselves and come to their own conclusions about who killed Duncan Skinner and why.
 

About Michael Wayne

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Michael Wayne teaches history at University College, the University of Toronto. His first book, The Reshaping of Plantation Society, won multiple prizes, including the Francis Butler Simkins Award of the Southern Historical Association.
 
Published February 12, 2001 by Oxford University Press. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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A comprehensive exploration of a bizarre, contested murder in the plantation South on the eve of the Civil War.

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After an account of McCallin's later years married to a black field hand, the book ends curiously with a fictional document written by Wayne: a letter to his son in which McCallin confesses to having consorted with slaveholders and dreamed of owning slaves, though he sees himself as a victim of t...

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