Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Rothmc cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorMildred D. Taylor
Cover artistJerry Pinkney
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreHistorical fiction
PublisherDial Press
Publication date
1976
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages288
ISBN0-590-98207-9
Preceded bySong of the Trees 
Followed byLet the Circle Be Unbroken 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a 1976 novel by Mildred D. Taylor. Part of her Logan family series, it's a sequel to her 1975 novella Song of the Trees, and won the 1977 Newbery Medal.[1][2]

The novel is the 4th book in the Logan family saga, which includes four sequels; Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981), The Road to Memphis (1992), The Gold Cadillac (1987) All the Days Past, All the Days to Come (2020) and three prequels; The Land (2001), The Well: David's Story (1995) and Song of the Trees (1975) as well as two novellas; Mississippi Bridge (1990) and The Friendship (1987) . In the book, Taylor explores struggles of African Americans in 1930s Mississippi through the perspective of nine year old Cassie Logan, using the novel to highlight several themes including Jim Crow segregation, Black landownership, sharecropping, the Great Depression and lynching.

Plot[edit]

Nine-year-old Cassie Logan has three siblings, Stacey (twelve years old), Christopher-John (seven years old), and Little Man,(six years old), in rural Mississippi. Unlike most black families in their area, the Logan family owns the land they live on. It originally belonged to white plantation owner Harlan Granger, but he sold 2000 acres of it in 1886 to cover his taxes during Reconstruction. The Logan's grandfather bought two hundred acres in 1887, then another two hundred acres in 1919.

At school, Cassie and Little Man notice that the books they use were originally in new condition distributed to the white kids, finally given to the black students once they're in bad condition. Their teacher Miss Crocker meets with Cassie's mother, Mary, who is also a teacher at the school. Mary calmly glues a piece of paper over the chart containing the racist information. She hands them back to a dumbstruck Crocker. That Saturday their father, David Logan, comes home from his railroad job in Louisiana, bringing with him L.T. Morrison to assist in planting, farming, protection, and other jobs, as Morrison was fired from the railroad for a fight that was the white men's fault. Papa leaves the next day to catch a train.

The next week, Stacey and his friend T.J. take an examination and T.J. creates cheat sheets that he gives to Stacey when he sees Mrs. Logan approaching him. She finds the notes, accuses Stacey of cheating on the test, and whips him in front of the class before failing him. After school, T.J. runs to the Wallace store, which the Logans forbid their children from visiting. Stacey follows T.J. and attacks him. Mr. Morrison finds them fighting and separates them, much to the Wallaces' anger. Instead of telling their mother, Morrison leaves Stacey to do it himself. Stacey tells her and she takes the children to visit the Berrys. Mr. Berry is badly burned, gruesomely disfigured and mute. Mama explains that the Wallaces are responsible for this and that is why they are never to go near the Wallaces' store again.

Meanwhile, Mama begins recruiting people to boycott the Wallaces' 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 (another town) and sells her goods at the market there, but away from the white people's wagons. After lunch, they visit the office of Mr. Jamison, their white lawyer and son of the man who sold them Harlan Granger's land. He is one of the few whites who treat black people respectfully. While there, 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 it. Mr. Barnett begins serving T.J., but when white customers come in, Mr. Barnett interrupts his business with T.J. to serve them. Cassie reminds Mr. Barnett that they have been waiting for an hour; he tells her in racist terms to continue waiting. Cassie does not understand and begins yelling at Mr. Barnett. Stacey tells her to be quiet, and Mr. Barnett ejects them both from the store.

Outside, 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 "Miz Lillian Jean" as though she were an adult. To Cassie's horror, her grandmother reluctantly enforces Mr. Simms's command, and she is forced to apologize.

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 drives away seeking revenge, but is stopped and calmed by Mr. Morrison. Mama tells Stacey to get Mr. Morrison to stop Hammer because she is worried Hammer will be lynched for attacking a white family. She later finds him alive and unharmed.

Papa comes home for Christmas and is planning to stay until spring. On Christmas night, Lillian Jean's younger brother Jeremy brings nuts for all the Logan children, as well as a handmade flute for Stacey. Papa warns Stacey to be careful about being friends with Jeremy, explaining that as he gets older, he may change and become as racist as the rest of his family. The next day, Papa calls the children into the barn, whips them and tells them never to go to the Wallace store again.

Time passes and Papa starts leading the boycott against the Wallaces' store. Mr. Jamison visits and Big Ma signs papers transferring the land to Papa and Hammer. Jamison also warns them to be careful, as they could still lose their land if they continue their boycott. Mr. Granger asks for the land again, but Papa still refuses. Hammer returns to Chicago.

Cassie makes "peace" with Lillian Jean, calling her "Miz Lillian Jean" and being her friend by carrying her books to and from school. As Lillian Jean begins trusting Cassie, she tells her all her own secrets, as well as those of her friends and brothers. Cassie eventually exacts her revenge by leading Lillian Jean into the woods, where they fight. Cassie forces Lillian Jean to apologize for all the humiliation she inflicted on her, then threatens to reveal all of Lillian Jean's secrets if she tells anyone what happened.

T.J. is caught cheating again and fails for another year. In anger, he tells Mr. Wallace about the Logans' organized boycott of his store and how Mrs. Logan does not teach from the county-issued textbooks because she believes they contain biased information. Mr. Granger, Mr. Wallace, and a school board member fire Mrs. Logan on charges of teaching unapproved subjects. Stacey blames T.J., who denies it was his fault. As his black friends begin to shun him over this, T.J. turns to hanging out with Jeremy Simms' older brothers Melvin and R.W., who manipulate T.J. and mock him behind his back.

Papa, Mr. Morrison, and Stacey go to Vicksburg; on their way back, they find one of the wagon wheels has been tampered with. As Papa fixes it, they are ambushed by the Wallaces. They attempt to shoot Papa with a bullet that grazes his temple. However, this startles the horse into running off, causing the wagon to fall and crush Papa's leg. Mr. Morrison attacks the Wallaces, snapping Dewberry Wallace's back. Later, Mr. Granger uses his banking influence to make the Logans' mortgage note due for full payment within a week even though the Logans had four more years to pay it. Uncle Hammer sells his car and other items, allowing the Logans to pay their mortgage.

On the last night of church revival meetings in August, T.J. appears with R.W. and Melvin in order to show his former friends he is better off without them. R.W. and Melvin take T.J. to the Barnett store. The store is closed, but R.W. and Melvin convince T.J. to break in and they rob the cash box. The Barnetts catch what appear to be three black burglars, as Melvin and R.W. are wearing stocking masks over their faces. R.W. hits Mr. Barnett with the flat end of an ax and slaps Mrs. Barnett, causing her to hit the back of her head on a stove and black out. They beat up T.J. when he threatens to tell what happened. T.J. flees to the Logans. Stacey takes T.J. home but the Simms and Wallaces attack his home, capture T.J. and are about to lynch him when Mr. Jamison and the town sheriff arrive. Suddenly, the Logan's family, supposedly due to a lightning strike, and the cotton fields catch fire. The community bands together to stop the fire from spreading.

The sheriff arrests T.J. and Cassie realizes that Papa set the fire to save T.J. Stacey asks what T.J.'s fate will be. It is revealed that Mr. Barnett has dies, and Papa tells the children T.J. will likely be convicted of Mr. Barnett's murder and may be executed. Cassie, overwhelmed by the news, silently goes to bed. Although Cassie never liked T.J., she cries for him and the land.

Reception[edit]

At the time of the book's publication, Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Taylor trusts to her material and doesn't try to inflate Cassie's role in these events, and though the strong, clear-headed Logan family is no doubt an idealization, their characters are drawn with quiet affection and their actions tempered with a keen sense of human fallibility."[3] In a retrospective essay about the Newbery Medal-winning books from 1976 to 1985, literary critic Zena Sutherland wrote of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, "There is no doubt that this book remains today as effective dramatically and as important sociologically as it was when it appeared... This is not an unflawed book, but it is a memorable one."[4]

In addition to a Newbery Medal, the novel was also a National Book Award finalist and Coretta Scott King Award honoree.[5]

Censorship and banning incidents[edit]

The Burbank Unified School District banned the book from the curriculum due to complaints from four parents who allege the material in the book could lead to potential harm to the district's African-American students.[6][7][8]

Film[edit]

In 1978, the novel was adapted into a television film directed by Jack Smight and starring Claudia McNeil, Janet MacLachlan and Morgan Freeman.[9] The film won modest praise, including two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Burnett, Matia (18 February 2016). "Celebrating 40 year of 'Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry'". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  2. ^ Newbery Medal Winners from 1922 to Present
  3. ^ "ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D. Taylor, Jerry Pinkney". Kirkus Reviews. October 1, 1976. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  4. ^ Sutherland, Zena (1986). "Newbery Medal Books 1976-1985". In Kingman, Lee (ed.). Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books 1976-1985. Boston: The Horn Book, Incorporated. p. 156. ISBN 0-87675-004-8.
  5. ^ "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Paperback) | Scholastic Book Clubs".
  6. ^ ""To Kill a Mockingbird," other books banned from California schools over racism concerns". Newsweek. 2020-11-13. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  7. ^ "SIGN NOW: Demand Burbank Schools Reinstate Banned Books". PEN America. 2020-10-13. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  8. ^ NCAC (2020-12-04). "California School District Considers Ban on Classic Books | UPDATED". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved 2021-05-07.
  9. ^ "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (TV Movie 1978) - IMDb".
  10. ^ "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry".

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by Newbery Medal recipient
1977
Succeeded by