"The Sky is Grey" is actually set in the late 1930's before the United States entered the war and about 20-30 years before the civil rights movement began in earnest. This contributes to the irony of the story, because African Americans were just about to be drafted and sent to fight for their country, which denied them basic freedoms. The prejudice the mother and son face point out the racism that was present at the time of the story. The story was published in 1963, just when the civil rights movement was becoming a real issue in American society. By setting the story thirty years earlier, Gaines is able to show the prejudice that existed without alienating some readers who probably were still thinking the civil rights movement wasn't needed.