An unrelieved downward curve in this story of an uprooted Negro family, as they leave their cotton to get big money in New Orleans. From small security to no security, they drift from bad to worse in the city, while the murder of the father throws on teen age Burden the responsibility of his mother and sisters. The urge to get money drives him to questionable comrades and activities, and it is the watchfulness of the white officer, Videan, that keeps him from real danger. Efforts to go straight meet no assistance from others, and he finally teams up with powerful Slack, who even helps him when he loses his grigri. The call back to the land grows ever stronger, but deeper dependence on the lawless circles keep him tied, and growing fear of the spell upon him spurs him to the strongest grigri, until finally he shoots Videau and is himself killed by a train.... The Negro section of New Orleans, its customs, laws and people, microscoped as background for Burden's story.