Jack Burden, the narrator of All the King's men, just can't stay out of the past. The book itself is one extended memory that Jack has after events detailed in the book have already happened. The story Jack tells is a collection of a bunch of memories. Every moment leads him to a memory of the past. But, he's not content to remember his own past experiences. Jack also wants to discover secrets from the past that certain people don't want to share. While digging into the past, he also uncovers pre-Civil War secrets, which reveal shameful practices of slavery that are close to home. At the novel's end, Jack realizes the understanding one's true past is necessary for a satisfying life in the present.
While knowing the truth about his past gave Jack the keys to unlock his present and future, it's not so easy when it comes to the "other" past in the novel, the past of slavery in America.