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  • Little, Brown US

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

Ben Montgomery

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True crime

The little-known true story of George Dinning, a freed slave, and Colonel Bennett H. Young, a Confederate war hero, who joined forces to take on a Kentucky mob in court after Dinning was beaten almost to death for defending his farm against white attackers

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? George Dinning, a freed slave who'd farmed peacefully in the area for 14 years, and had been wrongfully accused of stealing livestock from a neighboring farm. When the mob began firing through the doors and windows of Dinning's house, 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 Ben Montgomery resurrects this dramatic and 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 thrilling but unlikely story of justice to unfold in a time and place where justice was all too rare.

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