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Fearing the prejudice in Stamps, Momma decides it is time for her grandchildren to return to their parents in California. She makes many sacrifices and saves every extra nickel and penny to have enough for their fares. Not wanting to explain to them the real reason for her decision, Momma tells Maya and Bailey that she and Uncle Willie are getting too old to care for them.
A few weeks prior to Momma’s decision, Bailey had a horrifying encounter. One day he passed a group of black men standing around a corpse. Bailey helped the men pick up the body. As a cruel joke, a white man locked the blacks up with the corpse. Bailey could not understand what the joke was all about, for to him death was no laughing matter. When Bailey told Uncle Willie about the incident, he asked why white people hate blacks so much. Uncle Willie replied that they just did not know them.
Momma does not want Bailey and Maya to endure the "humorless puzzle of inequality and hate" any longer. As soon as she has enough money saved, she departs for San Francisco with her granddaughter. Maya’s only regret at leaving Stamps is the loss of her friend Louise and her separation from Bailey. A month later, Bailey also goes to California.
When Momma tells her grandchildren that she is going to send them to their parents in California, Maya senses that the real reason for sending them away has little to do with Momma’s advancing age and inability to look after them.
Bailey’s encounter with white prejudice and hatred is chilling. It is hard for him, or the reader, to understand how a human being can treat other human beings so cruelly simply because of the color of their skin. When the reader learns about Bailey’s experience, it is obvious that Momma is sending her children to California to get them away from the horrible racism in Stamps. She loves her grandchildren too much to allow them to be destroyed by the southern mentality.