Chapter 1 Summary
His name is Denver Moore and, except for answering a question or two, Miss Debbie is the first white woman with whom he has ever spoken. Even answering a simple question is a risk for him, since the last time he was foolish enough to speak to a white woman he was nearly killed.
When he was about sixteen years old, Moore was walking down the dirt road in front of the cotton plantation where he worked in Red River Parish, Louisiana. On the road he was traveling there were few trees, so he was quite visible as he was walking back from his auntie’s house.
He saw a white woman standing by her car, a blue Ford, maybe a 1951 model. She had on a hat and a skirt, so perhaps she had been to town; and she looked at Moore as if she were trying to figure out how to change a tire. The boy stopped and offered to help. The woman looked relieved and grateful as she accepted his offer; he asked her for a jack (she had one), but that was all the words they spoke.
Just as he fixed the tire, three white boys rode out of the woods on horses. As they approached the car, they could not see Moore working on the tire. At first, Moore did not move, thinking they might just pass on by; however, he did not want them to think he was hiding, so he slowly stood up.
These white boys were not much older than Moore, but they were not happy to see a black boy so close to one of their women. The white lady looked down at her shoes and said nothing. One of the boys on horseback said he intended to teach Moore a lesson and threw a grass rope around his neck as if roping a calf; as it tightened around his neck, Moore flushed with fear.
Moore does not ask anyone for sympathy regarding this event because he was only one of many to endure such things. It is just how things were in Louisiana at that time, and in Mississippi, too. A few years after Moore’s incident, a black man named Emmett Till whistled at a white woman and was beaten...
(The entire section is 708 words.)