Appalachee Red Summary
Appalachee Red, the first part of Raymond Andrews’s Muskhogean Trilogy, traces the development of African American life in the American South from just after World War I until the end of 1963. Although the novel is perhaps best described as tragicomic, it presents readers with many truths of the cultural, social, political, and historial milieus of the South during the first half of the twentieth century.
The novel opens in late autumn of 1918, when Big Man Thompson, a twenty-one-year-old African American man, is arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. This is the first of a number of tragic but realistic injustices experienced by African Americans in the South that the author catalogs. Other such experiences include economic oppression, political manipulation, terrorization of the African American community by law enforcement officials, and forced concubinage of African American women as a rite of southern white manhood. These are accepted codes of conduct in Muskhogean County, Georgia, Andrews’s microcosm of the rural South.
Appalachee Red enters town as a mysterious stranger in the fall of 1945 and, with his own brand of manipulation of Appalachee’s African Americans and whites, goes about deliberately and calculatingly claiming the African American community as his own domain. For the next eighteen years, Red is the undisputed and uncontested king of Appalachee, with most of the population fearing his quiet, no-nonsense approach to everything, and just as many envying the number of possessions he amasses, especially Baby Sweet Jackson and Red’s long, black, chauffeur-driven Cadillac limousine.
Readers soon discover, though the townspeople never do, that Red is no mere stranger who happens to wander into Appalachee. Rather, he is a native son, the offspring of John Morgan, the prototype of the wealthy white southern elite, and Little Bit Thompson, one of the Morgan family’s maids. Red has returned to his native Appalachee following a European tour of duty during World War II to claim his birthright as heir to a portion of the Morgan estate and to seek a measure of revenge on those who have wronged him both directly and indirectly.
Red accomplishes this and more. Red drives the police out of the African American community of Appalachee, takes control of the community’s vice, shrewdly manipulates the white community, gives the African American community a degree of pride, and amasses a fortune in the process. As the novel ends, Red leaves Appalachee just as mysteriously as he came, but not before he has given in to the sexual attraction that his white half sister has...
(The entire section is 627 words.)