Building up Jefferson’s dignity would require dismantling a lifetime of systematic racism that has shaped the man’s character.Despite his reservations, Tante Lou persuades Grant to help Miss Emma and they are eventually given permission to visit Jefferson in prison.
Terrified and overwhelmed, Jefferson tried to calm himself down by drinking a little of the store’s whiskey and then, realizing he would have to flee, took some money from an open cash register even though he recognized this was morally wrong.
Two white men then discovered him trying to leave the store and he was arrested.
He also explains that, because of this, Jefferson’s response to death will be important to the whole Black community.
The question of whether he dies with dignity and self-respect will influence their dignity and self-respect, too.
The prosecuting attorney’s spin on this was that Jefferson arrived fully intending to rob the store and kill the owner and that, once this was complete, he drank the whiskey to celebrate his crimes.
The defense attorney countered this by saying that Jefferson was mentally incapable of planning such a crime.
He even initiates a conversation with Grant about his predicament and treatment.
Jefferson also opens up to Grant when asked about his last meal, admitting that he wants a gallon of ice cream because he has only ever been allowed tiny amounts.
Through this increasingly strong connection, Grant is able to explain to Jefferson how significant his death will be for the whole Black community.
He explains that when his defense attorney compared him to a hog, he insulted all Black people, drawing on a long history of white supremacist lies and propaganda.