Return of the Native Son is the story of Tony Jones, son of Antonio Jones, a Union Army officer who oversaw the Freedmen’s Bureau in Beaufort, S.C., after the Civil War. Though his father is of mixed race and passes for white, Tony appears to be black. This makes little difference on St. Helena Island, which is predominately black, but creates problems when he goes off to Harvard. Eventually, he drops out of that august institution and tries his luck as an artist in Paris.
The story begins as he is returning to St. Helena after learning of a hurricane that devastated the Beaufort area in 1893. Along the way home from the train station he encounters Jacqueline LeRoux. Jackie, as she is called, has just returned from London, where she has been living with her Aunt Lucinda, who is a theatrical impresario and has helped Jackie launch an acting career. Like Tony, she has returned to Beaufort to assist her parents in the wake of the hurricane.
In spite of their education and worldly experience, neither young person is prepared for the fury that awaits those who dare to defy the unwritten rules of the segregated South.
This is the story of their defiance, their courage, their despair, and their struggle for love and dignity in a society that seeks to deny them both.