A powerful novel about growing up black on the World War II home front in the Jim Crow South. Caleb lives in a world at war. War news is on everyone's mind, and Caleb's older brother, Randall, is likely to be sent overseas. The presence of German POWs in Caleb's rural Georgia community is a constant reminder of what's happening in Europe. Locked in a power struggle with his domineering father and fighting to keep both his temper and his self-respect in dealing with whites, Caleb finds his loyalties shifting and his certainties slipping away. This coming-of-age story, set in a time before the civil rights movement emerged, traces one young man's growing commitment to justice and to the courage needed to protect it.
Cy Williams, thirteen, has always known that he and the other black folks on Strong's plantation have to obey white men, no question. Sure, he's free, as black people have been since his grandfather's day, but in rural Georgia, that means they're free to be whipped, abused, even killed. Almost four years later, Cy yearns for that freedom, such as it was. Now he's a chain gang laborer, forced to do backbreaking work, penned in and shackled like an animal, brutalized, beaten, and humiliated by the boss of the camp and his hired overseers. For Cy and the boys he's chained to, there's no way out, no way back. And then hope begins to grow in him, along with strength and courage he didn't know he had. Cy is sure that a chance at freedom is worth any risk, any sacrifice. This powerful, moving story opens a window on a painful chapter in the history of race relations.