Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Rothmc cover.jpg
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry
Author Mildred D. Taylor
Cover artist Jerry Pinkney
Country USA
Language English
Genre Historical Fiction
Publisher Dial Press (Now Penguin Group)
Publication date
1976
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 276pp
ISBN 0-590-98207-9
Preceded by Song of the Trees
Followed by Let the Circle Be Unbroken

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a 1976 novel by Mildred D. Taylor, sequel to her 1975 novella Song of the Trees. It is a book about racism in America. The novel won the 1977 Newbery Medal.[1] It is followed by two more sequels, Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981), The Road to Memphis (1990), and a prequel to the Logan family saga, The Land (2001).

This popular novel explores life in southern America, "The South", during the Depression - when racism was still common and many were persecuted for the color of their skin. The 'Berry Burnings' mentioned in the first chapter-and beyond-and Mr. Tatum who was tarred and feathered in the fourth chapter, are prime examples of racist white people taking the law into their own hands, at the expense of the black population.

Throughout this novel the reader learns about the importance of land and the effects of racism, at the same time as Cassie Logan (the narrator) learns 'the way things are'. It is key to this story that the narrator is a child as it adds emphasis upon what it was like to grow up in "The South", and it also helps the reader to understand (as they too may not have very much understanding of the true impact of racism at this time).

Plot[edit]

Cassie, Stacey, Christopher-John, and Little-man walking to school in rural Mississippi. Cassie talks about the land on which the Logan family lives. It belonged to Harlan Granger, but he sold 200 acres of it in 1886 to cover his taxes during Reconstruction. Their grandfather bought two hundred acres in 1887, then another two hundred acres in 1918. After several miles of walking, T.J. Avery and his brother Claude appear. The Avery family sharecrops on the Granger plantation. Later, the Jefferson Davis school bus drives by. The kids get out of its way in time except Little Man, whose clothes become full of mud kicked up by the bus. He was lagging behind so that he wouldn't get his clothes dirty. At school, Cassie and Little Man go to their classroom, where Cassie's teacher, Miss Daisy Crocker, gives them their textbooks, worn-out, outdated castoffs from the white school with a chart that says only white kids used these books up until they were in bad condition, indicating their future uses are intended only for black students, which upsets Little Man. Miss Crocker meets with their mother, who calmly glues a piece of paper over the chart containing the racist indicator chart and does this to all the books. She then hands them back to a dumbstruck Miss Crocker. On Saturday, their father, David Logan, comes home from his railroad job in Louisiana and brings with him Mr. L.T. Morrison to assist in planting, farming, protection, and other jobs, as L.T. was fired from the railroad for a fight that was the white men's fault. Papa leaves the next day after church to catch a train.

The next week, Stacey and T.J. take a test and T.J. creates cheat sheets that he gives to Stacey when he sees Mrs. Logan coming. She finds the notes, accuses Stacey of cheating on the test and whips him hard in front of the class and fails him. After school, T.J. runs to the Wallace Store, which the Logans forbid their children from visiting due to the Wallace's causing much of the black folks' troubles. Stacey follows T.J. while the others follow him. Mr. Morrison finds them fighting and separates them. Instead of telling their mother, Morrison leaves Stacey to do it himself. Stacey tells his mom, and she takes the children to visit the Berrys. Mr. Berry is badly burned and gruesomely disfigured. Mama explains that the Wallaces are responsible for this and doesn't want them to ever go near the Wallace's store again.

The next day, Mrs. Logan recruits people to boycott the Wallace Store because they are the cause of most of the trouble between the blacks and the whites, and are alleged to be members of the "night men". Big Ma, Cassie's grandmother, takes Stacey, Cassie and T.J. to Strawberry, a nearby town, and sells her goods at the market there. After lunch, they visit the office of Mr. Jamison, who is their white lawyer and the son of the man who sold them Harlan Granger's land. He is one of the few white men who treats black people equally. T.J. takes Cassie and Stacey to the Barnett Mercantile to purchase items his family needs. T.J. admires a pearl-handled revolver on display, and says he wants to "own that gun". Mr. Barnett begins serving T.J., but a white customer comes in and Mr. Barnett interrupts his business with T.J. to serve her. As he begins attending to T.J. again, a white girl comes in and again Mr. Barnett stops serving T.J. Cassie reminds Mr. Barnett that they have been waiting for an hour. He tells her in racist terms to continue waiting. Cassie begins yelling at Mr. Barnett. Stacey tells her to be quiet, but Mr. Barnett kicks them both out of the store. Cassie accidentally bumps into Lillian Jean Simms on the sidewalk. Lillian Jean orders her to get down in the road and apologize. Cassie tries running, but Lillian Jean's father twists her arm and throws her onto the road and orders her to apologize by calling Lillian Jean Miss like she was an adult. Big Ma reluctantly tells her to apologize, and they leave. When they get home, they find their uncle Hammer Logan from Chicago is visiting with a shiny silver Packard. Cassie tells him what happened and Hammer impulsively speeds away to get revenge. Mama tells Stacey to get Mr. Morrison to stop Hammer. She is worried that Hammer will get lynched for attacking a white family, but she finds him alive and unharmed. Before going to church, Hammer gives Stacey an early Christmas present, a wool coat whose sleeves were too long. At church, T.J. persuades Stacey to give him the wool coat because its overlong sleeves made it look "like a preacher's coat". Papa comes home for Christmas and is staying until spring. On Christmas night, Jeremy visits the Logans and gives them nuts and a handmade flute for Stacey. Papa warns Stacey to be careful about being friends with Jeremy, saying that eventually he will change, because the Simms are racist, and Jeremy might become prejudiced too. The next day, Papa calls the children into the barn, whips them and tells them never to go to the Wallace store ever again. Time passes and Papa starts leading the boycott against the store. Mr. Jamison visits and Big Ma signs papers giving the land to Papa and Hammer. He also warns them to be careful, because they could lose their land if they continue their boycott. Mr. Granger asks for the land again, but Papa refuses again. Hammer then returns to Chicago.

Cassie makes "peace" with Lillian Jean, calling her by "Miz" Lillian Jean and being her friend by carrying her books at school. As Lillian Jean begins trusting Cassie more, she tells her all of her and her friends' secrets. This all turned out to be a clever ploy when one day, she led Lillian Jean into the woods, dropped her books on the ground and started attacking her - forcing her to apologize for all the humiliation that she did to Cassie. Cassie blackmails Lillian Jean so that she won't tell anyone by saying that she will tell everyone how she told Cassie all her friends' secrets, and that a younger black girl heard them and successfully beat her up. T.J. gets caught cheating again and fails for another year. He tells Mr. Wallace about Mrs. Logan and how she doesn't teach from the county-issued textbooks because she believes they contain biased information, and even tells about the boycott. Mr. Granger, Mr. Wallace and a school board member fire Mrs. Logan on charges of "teaching unapproved things" after a classroom inspection because Mama didn't use the school board's racist books for her lessons. Stacey blames T.J., although he denies it was his fault. After his black friends shun him, T.J. begins hanging out with Melvin and R.W. Simms, brothers of the Logans' friend Jeremy, who use him for their own selfishness and then mock him behind his back. Papa, Mr. Morrison and Stacey go to Vicksburg, and on their way back, they find one of the wagon wheels was tampered with. As Papa is fixing it, they are ambushed by the Wallaces after they tried to shoot Papa in the head. Papa falls onto the ground and the startled horse runs off, causing Papa's leg to be crushed under the wheels. Mr. Morrison uses his height and strength to his advantage by snapping the limbs of the Wallaces (leaving Kaleb Wallace untouched). Later, Mr. Wallace threatens them with revenge for his brothers injuries. Mr. Morrison is able to lift the truck out of his path and they all away, leaving Kaleb Wallace to continue his threats as they leave. Mr. Granger uses his banking powers to "call up" the Logan's mortgage note to make it due for full payment in only a week even though the Logans had four more years to finish paying it. Uncle Hammer responds by selling his car and some other items, leaving the Logans able to pay the mortgage in full.

Summer comes and with it, church revival meetings at Great Faith in August. On the last night of the meetings, T.J. appears dressed up in gangster-like clothes with R.W. and Melvin in order to show his old friends how better off he is without them. They later take T.J. to get the pearl handled pistol at the Barnett store. The store was closed, but R.W. and Melvin convince T.J. to steal the pearl handled pistol as the two raid the cash box. The Barnetts catch what appears to be three black burglars, as Melvin and R.W. are wearing stocking masks over their faces while T.J. isn't given any mask. R.W. Simms hit Mr. Barnett with the flat end of an ax and slapped a frenzied Mrs. Barnett, causing her to hit the back of her head on a stove and black out. After they fled, they beat up T.J. when he threatened to say that it was the Simms who hurt the Barnetts. T.J. flees to the Logans, Stacey takes T.J. home before T.J. father finds him missing and kicks him out. The night men-the Simms and Wallaces-appear, attacking the Avery's home, capture T.J. and are about to lynch him, when Mr. Jameson and the town sheriff arrive. The Wallaces propose taking T.J. to the Logan's land and killing him and Papa and Mr. Morrison there. The Logan children flee back home where they are found to have been missing and tell what happened. Papa immediately springs into action but Mama prevents him from using his gun. Using quick thinking, Papa and Mr. Morrison quickly leave. After a while, Mama and Big Ma realize that there was a fire outside caused by the lightening that could possibly eat away acres of their land. The fire stops the lynching by causing the Simms, Wallaces and Logans to work together to extinguish it. Mrs Barnett survived the burglary, but Mr. Barnett died from the blow to his head. The sheriff takes T.J. into town under arrest and Cassie realizes that Papa set the fire himself to save T.J., even though Cassie never really liked him. Afterwards, Stacey asks what would be T.J.'s fate after the burglary, Papa replies that he's in jail and is going to be convicted of Mr. Barnett's murder. Papa also answers Stacey's question about if T.J. could die by saying he wishes he could start lying about it now, and that it's something that shouldn't be. Cassie, overwhelmed by the news, silently goes to bed, they continue their lives - something T.J. would never experience again. Although Cassie never liked T.J., she cried for him. She cried for him, and the land!

Characters[edit]

Logan family[edit]

  • Stacey Logan: A 12-year-old boy who is slowly progressing into manhood. He is protective over his siblings. He is the oldest child of the family and is friends with T.J., but in the end realizes how he was changing. While Papa is away he feels that he's the man of the house and needs to keep his family safe.
  • Cassie Logan: The narrator and protagonist. Cassie is 9 years old. She has a fiery temper, is brave, and also is naive concerning the facts of racism. Cassie is the only girl out of the four children, but sometimes she can be just like the boys. She is very brave and strong for herself. She's strong-willed, and will speak her mind in just about any situation.
  • Christopher-John Logan: A plump, cheerful 7 year-old, Christopher-John is the third-oldest of the children. He is timid and easy going. Christopher John doesn't really stand out in the crowd, so he is very different from his other siblings.
  • Little Man Logan (Clayton Chester): A meticulously neat 6 year-old first-grader, Little Man is the youngest of the Logan children. He also doesn't understand why blacks get treated so badly and doesn't understand the concept why blacks and whites are different. All he knows is that he does not like it one bit.
  • Papa (David Paul Logan): The father of the Logan children. He values his independence highly, leaving for months at a time to work on the railroad in order not to lose ownership of Logan land.
  • Uncle Hammer: The uncle of the Logan children. He sells his car later in the book so the family could keep the land.
  • Mama (Mary Logan): The mother of her four children, Stacey, Cassie, Christopher-John, and Little Man. She teaches seventh grade at Great Faith Elementary, a class that gets smaller every year when her older students leave school to work on their families' sharecropper lands, and is eventually fired when T.J. tells on her pasting over the books' covers' racist front cover charts and about their leading of the boycott of the Wallace's.
  • Big Ma (Caroline) The mother of Papa and Uncle Hammer. The loving grandmother of Cassie, Stacey, Little Man, and Christopher John. The main caretaker of the house.

Simms family[edit]

  • Jeremy Simms: A white boy whose family is racist, Jeremy doesn't like or share his family's beliefs, and tries to be friends with Stacey and the others. For Christmas, Jeremy visits Stacey and gives him a flute and Mama some nuts. He lives in a tree house in an attempt to be away from his family, whom he detests. No matter how many times the Logan family shuns him, he never stops trying to be their friend, like a stray dog who follows them. Papa doesn't want him to be the Logan children's friend because he is afraid that Jeremy will grow up to be like the rest of his family.
  • Lillian Jean Simms: The older sister of Jeremy but younger than R.W. and Melvin Simms. Lillian Jean humiliates Cassie in Strawberry by shoving her in the road, and, later on in the novel, Cassie takes revenge by pretending to be her friend for several weeks and learning all her secrets that her friends tell her. After a month, Cassie brings her into the woods and drops her books, beats her up and then blackmails her into apologizing for what happened in Strawberry by threatening to tell that she told her and her friends' secrets to a black child and had been beaten up by that younger child.
  • Melvin and R.W. Simms: Jeremy and Lillian Jean Simms' older, racist brothers who use T.J. for their own wants and get him in trouble for burglary and the murder of Jim Lee Barnett.
  • Charlie Simms: The father of Lillian Jean, Jeremy, Melvin and R.W. Simms. He is a member of the night men. He is a very respected white man, but is very racist and does not like black people and immigrants. Charlie grabs Cassie and pushes her off the sidewalk in Strawberry because she accidentally bumped into Lillian Jean.

School (teachers, principal, etc.)[edit]

  • Miss Daisy Crocker: Black teacher at Great Faith Elementary School, calling very poor books "new" and "wonderful" and has no reaction to the N word.
  • Mr. Wellever: Principal of the Great Faith Elementary School, but is powerless when Granger and the Wallaces fired Mama from working there.
  • Gracey Pearson, Alma Scott and Mary Lou Wellever: Three girls that don't want Cassie to sit next to them, Mary Lou is the daughter of the principal and the only one besides Cassie who wore a new dress the day school starts.

Others[edit]

  • Mr. Morrison: A tall and well-built man Papa took into the Logan family since he had lost his job, who slowly becomes accepted as a member of the Logan family.
  • Harlan Granger: Son of Filmore Granger. He wants the Logans' land because he wants restore the Granger's land to his original racist family's ownership.
  • T.J.: 14-year-old boy who is a friend of Stacey's until he tells the Wallaces that Mama is teaching "inadequately", which causes him to lose the respect of everyone he knows. He becomes friends with Melvin and R.W. Simms who treated him nicely but laugh at him behind his back. He later discovers that they were just using him when it was too late, and went to jail and possibly death in the end for Jim Lee Barnett's murder during their burglary of Barnett's store.
  • The Wallace family: Run a store on Harlan Granger's land, white, racist and violent.
  • Mr.Jamison: A white lawyer who backs Mary Logan's boycott. He is a kind man who kept the Wallaces from hanging T.J. Opposes Harlan Granger.

Film adaptation[edit]

The book has also been made into a made for TV film in 1978 starring Morgan Freeman in an earlier role ("Uncle Hammer") and used music composed by Fred Karlin.[2]

References[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
The Grey King
Newbery Medal recipient
1977
Succeeded by
Bridge to Terabithia