A Case for Solomon
Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation
Amid an ever-thickening tangle of suspicion and doubt, two mothers and a father struggled to assert their rightful parenthood over the child, both to the public and to themselves. For two years, lawyers dissected and newspapers sensationalized every aspect of the story. Psychiatrists, physicians, criminologists, and private detectives debated the piano tuner’s guilt and the boy’s identity. And all the while the boy himself remained peculiarly guarded on the question of who he was. It took nearly a century, a curiosity that had been passed down through generations, and the science of DNA to discover the truth.
A Case for Solomon is a gripping historical mystery, distilled from a trove of personal and archival research. The story of Bobby Dunbar, fought over by competing New Orleans tabloids, the courts, and the citizenry of two states, offers a case study in yellow journalism, emergent forensic science, and criminal justice in the turn-of-the-century American South. It is a drama of raw poverty and power and an exposé of how that era defined and defended motherhood, childhood, and community. First told in a stunning episode of National Public Radio’s This American Life, A Case for Solomon chronicles the epic struggle to determine one child’s identity, along the way probing unsettling questions about the formation of memory, family, and self.
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A Case for Solomon
Read an Excerpt
Mark Dunbar, age twelve: Can you talk about your husband?
Marjorie Dunbar, Mark’s grandmother: Well, I got married in 1935. And when I first started dating him, I found he had been kidnapped when he was a little boy . . . Everybody was always interested in that. He was kidnapped and taken, and he was kept for nine months. He was a little over four years old, and his mother and father didn’t get him back until he’d been gone nine months.
Mark: Did they beat him a lot?
Marjorie: Yes, an old peddler was there that picked him up. And he would make him go...see more
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