Death of an Overseer: Reopening a Murder Investigation from the Plantation South

Paperback | February 15, 2001

byMichael Wayne

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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 communityconcluded 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.

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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 communityconcluded that he had been murdered by three ...

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.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.9 × 5.79 × 1.1 inPublished:February 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195140044

ISBN - 13:9780195140040

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Table of Contents

On History as Common Sense1. Investigation and Verdict2. The Evidence3. The Evidence Reconsidered4. Slavery5. The Question of a Frame-Up6. Black Images, White Minds7. Democracy and Justice8. In Search of John McCallinAn Epitaph for Duncan SkinnerAppendix I: First Draft and Fragment of a Second Draft of the Letter from Alexander Farrar to Henry DrakeAppendix II: Court Records from the Trial of Henderson, Reuben, and AndersonAppendix III: Additional Materials in the Newspapers Relating to the Trial and Execution of Henderson, Reuben, and AndersonAppendix IV: Additional Archival MaterialEssays on Sources and Suggestions for Further ReadingAcknowledgementsNote to ReadersIndex

Editorial Reviews

"A good historian must have not only a thorough knowledge of the past, but also the instincts of a detective, the insight of a psychologist and the literary skill of a gifted novelist. When these abilities are brought to bear on a particular historical problem, the results are invariablyfascinating. Such is the case with Death of an Overseer... Refreshingly, Wayne is neither judgmental nor sanctimonious about what he finds."--The Mobile Register