Papa comes home to visit for just one day because he is worried about his family. Papa has taken a job working for the railroad so that the Logans will have enough money to pay the taxes on their land, and his place of employment keeps him away from home for long periods because it is a good distance away. There has been trouble in the part of Mississippi where the Logan farm is located, however, and Mama has written to Papa about it. Some white men instigated a confrontation with two Negro men, and as a result, the Negro men were cruelly and horribly burned; one of them has died, and the other is near death. Tensions between blacks and whites are high in the area, and the Ku Klux Klan has been riding in the night, spreading terror among the Negro population. It is a dangerous time.
Papa comes home from his job to bring his friend Mr. Morrison, who will help out on the farm in Papa's absence. Mr. Morrison has lost his job on the railroad, and has not been able to find other employment. Papa has offered him work on the farm in exchange for his room and board and maybe "a few dollars in cash when (Papa) comes home in the winter". The real reason Papa brings Mr. Morrison home to the farm, however, is so he can protect Mama, Big Ma, and the children. Mr. Morrison is a giant of a man who would be a formidable opponent if the family should be threatened. Most important of all, though, Mr. Morrison is a good man and a loyal friend to Papa. Papa knows he will do everything he can to keep the Logans safe while Papa is gone.
Papa arrives home on a Saturday, and must catch the train out of Vicksburg on Sunday evening so that he can get back to work on Monday morning. If he does not show up then, he will lose his job (Chapter 2).