Who are the main characters in "Praying for Sheetrock" by Melissa Fay Greene?
Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene is a work of nonfiction about the first black commissioner in McIntosh County, Georgia, named Thurnell Alston. He is one of the two main characters in the story. He brought civil rights to the small, southern region in the 1970s. He granted voting rights, fought drugs, and introduced medical clinics, running water, and plumbing to this forgotten area. His beliefs and work were revolutionary for the time, but Alston was not all good. As time continued, he became distanced from his supporters, perhaps as a result of his son's death. After his son passed away, Alston neglected his family. Ultimately, Alston was the target of a police sting operation and was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison for drug conspiracy charges.
On the other side of the story is corrupt Sherrif Popell. He is the second main character in the story. Popell refused to accept that the future would include equal rights for African Americans. He was known to deny black people the opportunity to hold public office or to serve on a jury. Additionally, he made it nearly impossible for a black person to have a white-collar job. He was also part of an obvious criminal activity where he would pull cars of black people over, claim that it was a routine search, and would trick the people into giving all of their money to him or his officers. Although it would be easy to believe that Popell is the villain in this work of nonfiction, he was not purely evil, but a rather complex character. When a semi-truck crashed and its contents spilled, Popell looked the other way as poor black families pillaged through the goods, taking items that they needed.
Praying for Sheetrock is not a celebration of civil rights and the changes brought to McIntosh County, but it is a look into the real struggle of equality issues in the south.