Go and buy the book A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines. 

It is a great book written about a young black man named Jefferson who has been sentenced to the death penalty in 1948 Louisiana.  During Jefferson’s trial, the defense attorney claims that sending the young man to the electric chair would be similar to sending a hog to the electric chair.  In his attempt to prove Jefferson’s inability to hatch a murder plan, the young man’s mother, Miss Emma believes that the defense attorney has claimed that Jefferson isn’t a man at all. 

The remainder of the story is about a teacher, Grant Wiggins who reluctantly goes back and forth to the jail hoping to help Jefferson “become a man” so that he can die with dignity.  Grant has grown up in the same Cajun town as Jefferson but was able to escape to go to a university in California.  Grant felt pulled back home and would drop everything and leave if he wouldn’t regret it.  Now, he has to help Jefferson become a man which seems like an impossible task given the racial tides that swell against the lives of black men and women in the south.


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