Susan Byrd is a calm, middle-aged, part-native-American woman who lives near the town of Shalimar. Milkman finds her late in the novel as he is searching out the history of his family and lineage. Though careful not to tell much about his past on their first visit, when the judgmental Grace Long is present, on his second visit she tells him the story that unlocks his past. Her story suggests that she is Milkman's relative: that her father, Crowell Byrd, was the brother of Milkman's grandmother, Sing. She says that Milkman was descended from "those flying African children" and tells him of how his great-grandfather Solomon flew back to Africa, leaving behind his family, including Milkman's grandfather Jake. Susan Byrd then dismisses this entire story as a fantasy, but tells how after Solomon's disappearance her mother Heddy took him in, and he and Sing eventually moved to Boston together. Despite Susan's dismissal of the myth of Solomon, her story triggers an epiphany in Milkman and sets up the events of the rest of the novel.
The timeline below shows where the character Susan Byrd appears in Song of Solomon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 11
Part 2, Chapter 12
...dozens of questions about his family history, and is particularly curious if the Sing whom Susan mentioned is the same Sing who married his grandfather. Since Pilate really didn’t have a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14
Part 2, Chapter 15