“Masterful. . . . This story will enrage readers while bringing tears to their eyes.”— Victoria E. Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones
“Goat Castle is a highly entertaining story about a long-forgotten murder. It is also a reminder of the racism and intolerance found in southern history and of how difficult change has been. It’s a terrific read.” — John Grisham
“With masterful storytelling, first-rate research, and an ability to see what is often unseen, Karen Cox uses the 1932 ‘Goat Castle’ murder in Natchez, Mississippi, to reveal the myths, meanings, and mysteries behind Americans’ fascination with the Old South. At the heart of this tale is the human wreckage wrought by Jim Crow injustice.”— Danielle L. McGuire, author of At the Dark End of the Street
“Riveting and beautifully written, this book richly enhances our understanding of southern culture, slavery, gender, and Jim Crow. By revisiting the Goat Castle murder, Cox places the history of black and white Natchez in context, emphasizing the social and economic variables that shaped people’s everyday lives while remaining especially attentive to the cultural milieu that framed their lived experiences.” — Talitha L. LeFlouria, author of Chained in Silence
“In taut and riveting prose, historian Karen Cox has written a masterful and moving account of murder and racial injustice in the heart of the Deep South at the height of the Great Depression. Taking readers into the crumbling mansions of Natchez, Mississippi where white southerners still clung to any vestige of the privileges they once enjoyed, Cox reopens a decades-old mystery and, thanks to her herculean efforts to rescue what really happened, some ugly wrongs finally have been righted.” — Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
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You can learn more about Goat Castle on The University of North Carolina Press’s site.
Description of Goat Castle
In 1932, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, reckoned with an unexpected influx of journalists and tourists as the lurid story of a local murder was splashed across headlines nationwide.
Two eccentrics, Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery—known in the press as the “Wild Man” and the “Goat Woman”—enlisted an African American man named George Pearls to rob their reclusive neighbor, Jennie Merrill, at her estate. During the attempted robbery, Merrill was shot and killed. The crime drew national coverage when it came to light that Dana and Dockery, the alleged murderers, shared their huge, decaying antebellum mansion with their goats and other livestock, which prompted journalists to call the estate “Goat Castle.”
Pearls was killed by an Arkansas policeman in an unrelated incident before he could face trial. However, as was all too typical in the Jim Crow South, the white community demanded “justice,” and an innocent black woman named Emily Burns was ultimately sent to prison for the murder of Merrill. Dana and Dockery not only avoided punishment but also lived to profit from the notoriety of the murder.
In telling this strange, fascinating story, Karen Cox highlights the larger ideas that made the tale so irresistible to the popular press and provides a unique lens through which to view the transformation of the plantation South into the fallen, gothic South.