In Chapter 1 “Destinations”, Jeffrey S. Copeland introduces readers to Inman Perkins and three other characters – Doc Taylor, Williams, and Olivia Merriwether. Inman Perkins was beginning a new experience as part of the U.S. Army during World War II. He was taking the first train trip of his life, leaving St. Louis and heading for Davis-Monthan Field in Arizona. He was eager and excited to see what his new experiences in the military would bring him, but at the same time he was sad to leave behind his life in St. Louis. He missed his job as a science teacher at Sumner High School, a well-respected school for African Americans, and especially his girlfriend, Olivia, who was also a science teacher at the school.
On the trip, Inman was directed by a superior to do the job of “guarding the mail”. He was led to the back of the train where he met two other African American soldiers, Doc Taylor and Williams. The three men chatted and quickly started to develop a bond. Inman learned that, despite the fact that the two men were an odd couple, they had been friends back home in St. Louis. Williams was a cook. He was young, skinny, shy, and inexperienced. He was teased for not being very smart, but also had a reputation for having skills as a stealer. Doc was a skilled mechanic who had dropped out of high school in order to start working in his uncle’s auto shop. He was a big, strong man and a good athlete.
As the men talked, they could see white soldiers in other parts of the train having a good time together. Inman realized that he might have been the only one to notice that it was not a coincidence that the three African American men had ended up together in the back of the train. They were being isolated from the white soldiers.
p. 1 COPY - “At once I felt the excitement of the unknown and more than a little sadness for the...