This book, along with others (Invisible Man by Ellison among them) attempts to walk readers through life in the shoes of a black man/person. The prejudice is apparent, and anyone who reads carefully will eventually if not immediately feel empathy toward the main character. Although prejudice is still obvious and present in the USA, it is not nearly as horrible and blatant as in the years just after the Civil War and the Emancipation of the slaves. Check out other stories and poems (Langston Hughes' are wonderful) about Jim Crow laws, or ask your grandparents what life was like back then...whites and blacks were separated in almost everything from schools, to eating establishments and even water fountains. Rosa Parks became famous for refusing to sit in the back of the bus (where black people were to ride) when a white person got on the bus and wanted her seat. This book and others are about how unfair the treatment of these people was.