Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1943, and although her family moved to the North, as a child she frequently re-visited the South, absorbing the many stories she heard, later incorporating them into her novels, and The Road to Memphis is a fictional representation of archival and family research.
The author painfully depicts a world in which blacks must call whites 'Mr' and are daily forced to accept different kinds of intimidation that whites mete out with (usual) impunity. Jeremy Simms is a young white man who is an exception to these rules, though, as he believes that 'folks are folks', and is generally respected by the black community. Until, that is, he joins his racist cousins the Aames in chasing Harris, who badly breaks his leg as a result. However, Jeremy redeems himself when Moe snaps and beats up the Aames, and he not only hides Moe in his truck but secretly drives him to Jackson, from where he escapes in Stacey Logan's car to Memphis and by train to the safety of Chicago.
But there are no easy endings. There can't be.