“Maybe you all got stupid blood in you. It don’t even have to have a color.”
An old man stumbles into a hospital in Detroit, dying and on the brink of a third heart attack. He recounts the story of his childhood and a powerful, despairing tale of racial tension and murder in Mississippi. A brave man who thought himself a coward and with his last words he opened his heart to a stranger, a nurse, who in turn told the tale to a grandchild.
Elijah Irons was ten years old when the blind colored boy Isaiah was found murdered, an argument in Church sees Elijahs family set on a path of destruction that turns most of a town against them. The KKK runs deep in Forksville, racial hatred runs deep and God help those who go against them.
"Seems the problem here is that you claim to hate the colored people, but really you don’t. You hate the whites that don’t hate them even more.”
What can you do when people's minds are made up, there's simply amazement and disbelief, how could such intense feelings of animosity between different races exist. When people can't except change and refuse to look to the future, preferring instead to live steadfastly in the past.
"People are set in their ways, boys, and they ain’t going to change until they’ve bled a whole lot and their families ain’t nothing but memories and they forgot what the hell they were fighting for to begin with.”
This is a twisted tale of despair, where men, even families are divided by hatred and two young boys caught up in the middle of a community where life means nothing, decide to do something about it. Their actions and their family’s actions cause death and devastation, and all for nothing. Hopelessness is the overriding feeling and this family never stood a chance.
Lee Thompson captures the attitude and feeling of an era absolutely perfectly, when hope and decency flies far, and small town minds fight for their unlawful ideals. There are no heroes in this tale, there are people with warped morals who discriminate against race and there are people who see the wrong, and want to do right. The story and characterization are exceptional, I felt completely exasperated so many times I lost count and The Lesser People tugs, no, wrenches your emotions all over the place. Just when you think things will work out for the better, and this happened more than once, the tablecloth is vigorously pulled and the crockery isn’t left sitting neatly on the table. Everything's broken and you can't fix this broken.