by Toni Morrison
Sixo's the ultimate rebel. If he were around today, he'd probably be an activist, maybe even a community organizer. Let's take a look:
• He's the one to plan the escape from Sweet Home (19.197).
• He has a healthy disregard for the system of slavery and white people, including slavemasters like Mr. Garner (24.219).
• He eventually stops speaking English because he sees "no future in it" (2.25).
• And when he dies, he dies laughing, with his own rebel yell: "Seven-O! Seven-O!," the name of his soon-to-be baby growing in the Thirty-Mile Woman's womb (24.227).
But Sixo has a soft side, too. That's the side Paul D recalls fondly, the side that would sit with Paul D and cook potatoes (2.21) or walk all day to meet his girlfriend the Thirty-Mile Woman (2.24).
And above all else, Sixo is the novel's wise man. He's the kind of guy who's never wrong. Why? Because he's close to nature. And not in the Birkenstock-wearing way. No, he does things like go "among trees at night. For dancing, he said, to keep his bloodlines open, he said" (2.25). He also "melt[s] into the woods" (2.25) when a white couple spot him on the road after his meeting with his girlfriend. This guy knows Nature like he's one with it.
Sixo and Our Native American Roots
Why is Sixo so different from the other men at Sweet Home? The book is a little tricky here—surprise!—but it seems as if Sixo might have some connection to Native Americans.
He's described as "[i]ndigo with a flame-red tongue" (2.21), a possible reference to the first Spanish indigo plantations that used Native Americans; and he's able to commune with the "Redmen's Presence" (2.25), a definite reference to Native Americans.
So who care? Well, Sixo is a reminder of how those "[s]ixty million and more" ("Epigraph") affected by slavery weren't just black people. And more than that, before the enslavement of black people in America, there was the whole dispossession of the Native Americans. Sixo helps us remember the histories that come before and even lead up to African-American history.
Heavy, right? And all wrapped up in one minor character. Toni Morrison is that good.