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A Shot in the Moonlight: How a Freed Slave and a Confederate Soldier Fought for Justice in the Jim Crow South

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The sensational true story of George Dinning, a freed slave, who in 1899 joined forces with a Confederate war hero in search of justice in the Jim Crow south. “Taut and tense. Inspiring and terrifying in its timelessness.”(Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad )

Named a most anticipated book of 2021 by O, The Oprah Magazine
Named a "must-read" by the Chicago Review of Books
One of CNN's most anticipated books of 2021

After moonrise on the cold night of January 21, 1897, a mob of twenty-five white men gathered in a patch of woods near Big Road in southwestern Simpson County, Kentucky. Half carried rifles and shotguns, and a few tucked pistols in their pants. Their target was George Dinning, a freed slave who'd farmed peacefully in the area for 14 years, and who had been wrongfully accused of stealing livestock from a neighboring farm. When the mob began firing through the doors and windows of Dinning's home, he fired back in self-defense, shooting and killing the son of a wealthy Kentucky family.

So began one of the strangest legal episodes in American history — one that ended with Dinning becoming the first Black man in America to win damages after a wrongful murder conviction.

Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ben Montgomery resurrects this dramatic but largely forgotten story, and the unusual convergence of characters — among them a Confederate war hero-turned-lawyer named Bennett H. Young, Kentucky governor William O'Connell Bradley, and George Dinning himself — that allowed this unlikely story of justice to unfold in a time and place where justice was all too rare.

ISBN-13: 9780316535540

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Publication Date: 01-26-2021

Pages: 304

Product Dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Ben Montgomery is a former enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and founder of the narrative journalism website In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called "For Their Own Good," about abuse at Florida's oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his children. He is the author of The Man Who Walked Backward, The Leper Spy, and Grandma Gatewood's Walk.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Chapter 1 The Whites Would Be Bent on Revenge 3

Chapter 2 "That Protection Which the Law Refuses to Give" 22

Chapter 3 "They Treated Him More Than Bad and Myself All So" 39

Chapter 4 "The People Say That Dinning Was a Worthless Negro" 45

Chapter 5 "We Turned and Shot Back at the House" 56

Chapter 6 To Defend Ourselves 72

Chapter 7 "There Was a Good Many Holes" 86

Chapter 8 "A Bullet Came Through My Hair" 102

Chapter 9 Son of the South 115

Chapter 10 A Bad Man 129

Chapter 11 "The Praiseworthy Act of Killing" 157

Chapter 12 "May the Lord Protect Us, Or the Devil Take Us" 165

Chapter 13 "I Will Never Come Back to Kentucky" 183

Chapter 14 Indiana 199

Chapter 15 "Mass of Blood and Bones" 201

Chapter 16 The True Situation 210

Chapter 17 "A Negro's Life is a Very Cheap Thing" 221

Chapter 18 Derby Day 227

Chapter 19 "There Was a Great Rejoicing in Hell This Morning" 236

Chapter 20 "The Outcome Is Regarded as Sensational" 241

Chapter 21 Squat and Fire 247

Chapter 22 "I Want to Die in the Old Blue Grass" 251

Chapter 23 "Some of This Falls Down to Us" 259

Acknowledgments 267

Bibliography 269

Index 273