In Apple TV+’s drama series ‘The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,’ protagonist Ptolemy Grey suffers from dementia. Along with memory loss, Grey sees visions of an uncle-figure named Coydog, who urges him to find a treasure he handed over to Grey. When Dr. Rubin’s treatment helps Grey to regain his memory, he remembers the location of Coydog’s treasure aka “Black Heart.” Grey also remembers Coydog’s sacrifice for the betterment of his people. As the third episode of the show depicts Coydog’s life in detail, one must be wondering whether the character and his treasure have real-life origins. Let’s find out! SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Coydog Based on a Real Person?
No, Coydog is not based on a real person. The character is conceived by Walter Mosley for his eponymous novel, which serves as the source text of the limited series. However, Coydog represents several African-American individuals who were lynched to death in the Southern United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. During this particular period in history, several African-American individuals were beaten up, tortured, and hanged to death due to the racial tensions present in the states. Coydog, who lived in the Southern state of Mississippi, suffered the same fate.
Coydog, like many African-American martyrs, jeopardized his safety and security for the betterment of his community. He stole a treasure which he named black heart from Clive Miller, a cruel and affluent landholder who exploited African-Americans to increase his wealth. Coydog knew that the wealth Miller possessed belonged to the several African-Americans who worked tirelessly for the latter. By stealing the treasure, Coydog aimed to return Miller’s wealth to whom it rightfully belonged, his community. Coydog hid the treasure in a nearby well and asked Grey to pick up the same to return it to their people for their betterment.
According to NAACP, Mississippi alone witnessed 581 lynchings from 1882 to 1968. Coydog can be seen as the fictional counterpart of those who were killed for standing up against White supremacy and exploitations of African-Americans. Even though his life is fictional, Coydog’s milieu is indeed real and severely moving. Even when a White mob started to beat him, Coydog hoped that the treasure he stole would reach the hands of his people, helping them to reduce their suffering. Such a selfless mentality was displayed by innumerable African-Americans to make their community stronger, especially in the 20th Century. The fictional character of Coydog is seemingly a respectable nod to those individuals.
Is Coydog’s Treasure or Black Heart Real?
No, Coydog’s treasure or Black Heart is not real. Like the character, the treasure is also conceived by Walter Mosley as a plot device to connect Grey to his past. The fictional treasure motivates him to agree to Dr. Rubin’s treatment and he tries his best to locate it upon regaining his memory. However, the wealth Clive Miller accumulated by exploiting African-Americans also has historical parallels.
Before and even after the abolition of slavery, numerous landholders used African-Americans for their prosperity. Miller wasn’t any different from the same. The treasure Coydog stole represents the result of the exploitation of his community, which was prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries. Rather than a literal treasure, the Black Heart symbolizes the fruit of the hardships faced by African-Americans to swell the wealth of the Whites who unfairly utilized them.