A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines


Grant Wiggins, a teacher in small-town Louisiana, is asked to spend his free time on death row helping young Jefferson become a man before he's executed. It takes place eighty years after the abolition of slavery, but the black characters of this novel still live as third-class citizens. They live and work on a plantation. They are segregated from the white people in the town in every aspect of their lives, from bathrooms to movie theatres.

Alleged Crime

Jefferson is very much in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses a robbery-murder at a liquor store. He is convicted of murder and sentenced to death by electrocution. In his trial his defense lawyer compares him to a hog that isn't worth killing.


Grant is an educated black man who doesn't like his hometown and would much rather be teaching somewhere else. He is quite cynical and is enraged by the segration. He is definitely a very interesting character.
I can't wait to continue reading The Lesson Before Dying!