Death of an Overseer
Who killed Duncan Skinner and why?
The murder of Duncan Skinner is a complex event and is difficult to fully understand. So many people were involved or had questionable motives that it becomes a large web of interactions to sift through. And so with all the evidence presented, here is my best interpretation of what may have happened. The three slaves Henderson, Anderson, and Reuben murdered Duncan Skinner, although many other slaves were involved in one way or another. John McCallen had an unusual relationship with the slaves but did not orchestrate the murder plot. Conclusions such as this are hard to come to with an absolute certainty because of the nature of the information provided. We …show more content…
From many accounts he was considerably more hard and cruel towards the slaves than other overseers might have been. In fact nothing is ever said about him indicating he was anything besides abusive in his treatment of the slaves. Taking this into account, the overseer was in charge predominately of the field hands. His job was to make money off the harvest so driving the slaves hard was in his best interest. Now the three slaves directly involved in the murder where Henderson, Anderson, and Reuben. Anderson was a field hand and as such it is easy to understand why he would want Skinner dead. Henderson and Reuben are not field hands however. Henderson was a carriage driver, and Reuben was a carpenter. This means these two would not have had to deal with Skinner too often, and probably did not feel his cruel tendencies like the other slaves would have. So why would two slaves, with comparatively decent jobs, want to kill the overseer? I think the answer to this is in how slave communities felt and acted. The most obvious evidence of strong feelings of community is what happened after Skinner's murder. Not only did the other slaves help to conceal the murder, but the three that committed the murder split all of the money taken from Skinner with everyone else. It points to the fact that those three slaves did not just commit that murder for personal reasons, but for reasons shared by the entire slave community on that plantation. Although other slaves provided