Summary: Chapter 30
On the morning before Jefferson’s execution, a black truck with a gray tarpaulin cover drives into town. Many people stop to watch it pass. It goes through the business district and pulls into the courthouse.
Vivian and Grant sit at the Rainbow Club the night before the execution. She tells him that from noon until she knows the execution is over, she will have her students kneel beside their desks. After saying goodnight to Vivian at nine o’clock, Grant drives around for a while and then goes to his aunt’s house. He notices a couple of cars parked in front of Miss Emma’s, but he does not stop.
At six-thirty the next morning, Sheriff Guidry sits down to breakfast, feeling nervous. He has never overseen an execution before. He tells his wife that he asked Grant if he would be present, but Grant shook his head. Guidry says Reverend Ambrose asked to attend the execution and Guidry said yes. He also asked the Reverend if one more person from the quarter would like to attend. At eight, Guidry goes to the courthouse and supervises the unloading process. Henry Vincent, the official executioner, tells the sheriff that the prisoner must be shaven. Guidry asks Paul to do it, and Paul reluctantly agrees.
Jefferson remains quiet as Paul shaves his head, ankles, and wrists. As Paul leaves, Jefferson asks him to deliver the notebook to Grant and to keep the radio for himself. Paul says he cannot keep the radio, but he promises to give it to the other inmates. He accepts Jefferson’s gift of a marble. Jefferson asks Paul if he plans to attend the execution and Paul says yes.
Summary: Chapter 31
As the hour of Jefferson’s execution approaches, Grant steps outside the schoolhouse. He remembers old friends, classmates, and baseball teammates. Many of his friends have died, mostly as a result of violence. Grant stifles tears for Jefferson, saying that there will be too many more like him, and he cannot cry for all of them. He thinks of calling Vivian or the Reverend. He thinks Reverend Ambrose is courageous for using the white man’s God as a source of strength. Grant wonders if he has caused Jefferson to lose faith in God and asks Jefferson to forgive his foolishness if he has robbed him of faith. Grant says he puts his faith in Jefferson.
At ten minutes before noon, Grant lines up his students and asks them to kneel. He goes back outside. He wonders what Jefferson is doing at this very minute and asks himself why he is not with Jefferson, or inside praying with his students. Angry, Grant says that he refuses to believe in the same God worshipped by the jurors that convicted Jefferson. Tante Lou, Miss Emma, and Reverend Ambrose believe in God because it frees their minds and gives their bodies a chance to be free. Grant says he knows this because “he knows what it means to be a slave. I am a slave.”