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For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family. The groundskeeper is part of the household's all-black staff, along with "Miss Mamie," the talented cook, and new maid Jennie Williams. The Barclay's fortunes have fallen, and their money is almost gone. When a business associate proposes selling Miss Mamie's delicious rib sauce under the brand name "The Rib King" - using a caricature of a wildly grinning August on the label - Mr. Barclay agrees. Yet neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime. Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy.