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On Wednesday, November 15, as part of the History Is Lunch series, Karen L. Cox will discuss her book Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South.

In 1932, the city of Natchez 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.

Karen L. Cox is professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of Dreaming of Dixie.

The program will take place in the Old Capitol Museum, located at 100 South State Street, Jackson, MS 39201. There is no charge to attend. Sales and signing to follow. For more information call 601-576-6998 or email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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