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In Chapter Two, while the Logans are at church, Mrs. Lanier tells Big Ma that John Henry Berry died the night before. The deacons announce it as well, and the people pray for his soul and for his brother and uncle's recovery. After church, Mr. Lanier says that John Henry had a nice place up by Smellings Creek with a wife and six children and that "they" have been after him since he came back from the war. Big Ma says he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mrs. Lanier says that Henrietta Toggins, who is related to the Berrys, was with them in John Henry's Model T when it happened. They had stopped for gas and some drunk white men came by and said: "That's the nigger Sallie Ann said was flirtin' with her." Henrietta made John Henry and his brother Beacon get in the car and drive off without filling up on gas. After they dropped her off at home, the three white men caught up with them and kept hitting the back of the car. Knowing he didn't have enough gas to get home, John Henry stopped at his uncle's. The white men dragged John Henry and Beacon out of the house and when their uncle tried to stop them, lit all three of them on fire.