A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines takes place in Louisiana in the 1940’s. When a young African American man named Jefferson is unfairly sentenced to death, school teacher Grant Wiggins is sent to try to make Jefferson a man before he dies. Throughout the novel, racial injustice is shown in both Jefferson and Grant’s lives in the way other people view them.
For Jefferson, racial injustice is present in court. Because of the color of his skin, Jefferson was automatically found guilty by those 12 men. “12 white men say a black man must die, and another white man sets the date and time without consulting one black person, Justice?” (157) The jury that decided his sentence was made up of 12 white men. Jefferson’s trial was unfair because the verdict was made by all white men. Jefferson was really just at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the biased jury saw him as guilty before finding any ...view middle of the document...
Pichot in ten minutes. Grant ends up waiting for over two hours before Henri Pichot decides to see him. “‘Been waiting long?’ Sam Guidry asked. ‘About two and and a half hours, sir,’ I said. I was supposed to say, ‘Not long,’ and I was supposed to grin; but I didn’t do either” (47). Even though Henri Pichot that knew Grant was waiting he continued to talk with his friends. Henri didn’t seem to think it was important to see Grant. Grant was expected to answer the white men with “sir” and treat them like the better, more important people. When Grant went to talk with Mr. Pichot there was unmistakable racial injustice.
Lastly, Grant experiences racial injustice in everyday situations, like at the store. Grant went to the store to buy a radio for Jefferson. He entered the store and noticed there was one worker, an older white woman. When Grant found the radio he wanted, he asked the clerk for a brand new one in a box. She tried to sell him the used one on display, and she even offered him a discount on it. When Grant refused, the woman went to find a new one. She finally returned with the radio and as she started walking to the cash register another white woman walked in. “The clerk set the radio beside the cash register and went to see what the white women wanted. The other women was not buying anything; she only wanted to talk. So they stood there for about ten minutes before the clerk came back to wait on me” (176). Even after trying to sell Grant the radio on display, she then ignores him when another white woman comes into the store. The other woman wasn’t even looking to buy anything, but the clerk didn’t feel that helping Grant was important. Grant was a customer like anyone else, but he was insignificant to the sales clerk because of his skin color. This shows the discrimination Grant faces in his daily life.
Throughout the book, Grant and Jefferson are faced with racial injustice in many aspects of their lives. Ernest Gaines shows the examples of the racial injustice that occurred in the 1940’s. Shown many times in A Lesson Before Dying, Grant and Jefferson both have to deal with the stereotypical views of others.