Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Author(s) Mildred D. Taylor Cover artist Jerry Pinkney Country U.S.A. Language English Series Yes Genre(s) Fiction Publisher Puffin Group-Dial Press (Now Puffin Group) Publication date 1976 Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) Pages 276 hardback LC Classification PZ7.T21723 Ro Preceded by Song of the Trees Followed by Let the Circle Be Unbroken
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a 1976 children's novel by Mildred D. Taylor. The novel won the 1977 Newbery Medal. Its sequel, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, was released in 1981. It also has a prequel in 1975, Song of the Trees. The Land tells the story of the Logan grandfather who purchased the land that is central to this novel
This novel explores life in Depression-era Mississippi as lived by an African-American family, the Logans. The Logans are fortunate; they own their own land in a time and place when many—black and white—are living as sharecroppers on various plantations and racially-motivated crimes are common. The 'Berry Burnings' mentioned in chapter 1 and Mr. Tatum who was tarred and feathered in chapter 4 are prime examples of lynch mobs and nightmen taking the law into their own hands, at the expense of the black population.
The novel focuses on the importance of owning land and the effects of racism. Focusing on Cassie Logan, (the narrator) the story also is a "coming of age" story as Cassie learns "the way things are".
Cassie and her brothers, Stacey, Christopher-John, and Little Man (Clayton Chester) walk to school. Cassie talks about the land on which the Logan family lives. On the first day of school, the children are walking to school, and Little Man is lagging behind, trying to keep the red dust off his clothes. On one street, the bus for the white school passes them, completely covering Little Man in a cloud of dust. At school, Cassie and Little Man go to their classroom where Cassie's teacher, Miss Crocker, gives them their textbooks, worn-out castoffs from the white school with a chart ranging from "Race of Student - White, Condition of Book - new" to "race of student - Nigra, condition of book - extremely poor". Little Man refuses to take the dirty book with the offending page, and Cassie speaks up for him, because she feels it's unfair, too. Ms. Crocker whips them and meets with their mother about their objections. Miss Logan "agrees" with her and she is also a teacher, but doesn't do much about the situation except cover up the insulting pages in her kids' books, and promises to do the same to her class' books.
After the rain starts in Mississippi, one day, the children get completely wet when the school bus passes, and Stacey decides to play a "prank" on the bus, so the children dig a deep ditch and fill it up with water, then get to watch the bus drive into the ditch, and the driver telling the white kids that they'll have to walk for at least two weeks. The children are delighted, until the night riders - who burned down the Berry's property and killed one of Mr. Berry's nephews, leaving him and his brother badly disfigured - come to the Logan's house, but are scared off by Mr. Morrison (a friend that Mr. Logan sends to stay at the Logan household).
A few weeks later, T.J. cheats on a History test, but gives Stacey the sheets when Mrs. Logan comes along. Stacey gets in trouble, but doesn't rat T.J. out, yet chases him to beat him up for it - all the way to the Wallace Store, where Mr. Morrison finds them, and then talks to Stacey, who tells his mother that he disobeyed her (she had forbidden the children to go there, because the Wallaces were the ones who burned the Berrys and cause much of the trouble for the black community). Instead of punishing them, Mrs. Logan takes the children to see Mr. Berry, who is very badly disfigured, not even able to speak.
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, Big Ma visits 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 in the town who treats black people well. T.J. takes Cassie and Stacey to the Barnett Mercantile to purchase items his family needs, despite Big Ma telling them to wait. 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 Mr. Barnett again stops serving T.J.. Cassie reminds Mr. Barnett that they have been waiting for an hour. He tells her to continue waiting. Cassie begins yelling at Mr. Barnett, saying that it's unfair. Stacey, knowing that that's the way things are, takes Cassie back outside, where Cassie bumps into a white girl, who then orders her to apologize and start walking on the street instead of on the sidewalk. Cassie says "sorry," but Lillian Jean tells her to walk on the street herself if she's "afraid of getting bumped." Then Lillian Jean's father comes and throws Cassie off the sidewalk, ordering Cassie to apologize to Lillian Jean by saying "Sorry Miz Lillian Jean," Cassie refuses and soon a crowd assembles, and Big Ma comes too, makes Cassie apologize and takes her away. Cassie is badly insulted and can't understand why people treated her so unfairly.
When they get home, they find their uncle Hammer Logan from Chicago is visiting in a shiny silver Packard. Cassie tells him what happened and Hammer speeds away to take revenge. Mama tells Stacey to get Mr. Morrison to stop Hammer. She is worried that Hammer will get hanged, but she finds him alive and well. Before going to church, Hammer gives Stacey an early Christmas present, a wool coat. At church T.J. persuades Stacey to give him the wool coat because "it looks 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. The next day, Papa calls the children into the barn and whips them for visiting the Wallace store. 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, requiring *both* their signatures to sell it. He also warns them to be careful, because they could lose their land if they continue their boycott. Mr. Granger asks for the land, but Papa refuses. Hammer returns to Chicago, and Papa continues the boycott.
Cassie makes peace with Lillian Jean, pretending to be her friend by carrying her books. As Lillian Jean begins trusting Cassie more, Cassie leads Lillian Jean into the woods and beats her up. She also threatens to tell the boy she likes about her. T.J. tells Mr. John Wallace (father of Dewberry, Thurston, and Kaleb Wallace) about Mrs. Logan and how she does not teach from the county-issued textbooks because she believes they contain biased falsehoods, and even tells about the boycott. Mr. Granger, a member of the school board, fires Mrs. Logan. Stacey blames T.J., although he denies it was his fault. After his friends shun him, T.J. begins associating with Melvin and R.W. Simms, brothers of the Logans' friend Jeremy. 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 Wallace brothers. Papa is shot in the fray and Mr. Morrison manages to hurt Kaleb Wallace. Papa survives with a badly broken leg.
Soon, Granger forces the Logans to pay up on a loan they once took out from the bank. Uncle Hammer has to sell his car in order to make the payment. Meanwhile, T. J. has become a rogue, a thief, and he hangs out with two trouble-making white teenagers, Melvin and R. W.. One night, they bring him along on a murderous rampage and manage to frame him. Papa and L. T. go to stop the lynching that follows. Almost as soon as they leave, however, the cotton field catches fire, as if it was struck by lightning. The lynch mob and the local black farmers must band together in order to stop the fire. It turns out that Papa started the fire in order to stop the lynching.
T.J. has been arrested and might be executed for 'his' murder. In the sequel, T.J. Avery is sent to trial...
The Logan family is one of the more privileged and rich black families in the area; they own land themselves, therefore they are not forced into poverty like the many share-croppers (for example the Averys and the Laniers) by the white land-owners (like Harlan Granger, Montier and Harrison).
- Stacey Logan: A 12 going on 13 year-old boy, Stacey is the oldest of the Logan children. He is part-adult, part-child.
- Cassie Logan: The narrator and protagonist. Cassie is 9 years old, therefore she is the second-oldest Logan child. She has a fiery temper like her Uncle Hammer. Also, she is very naive concerning the facts of racism.
- Christopher-John Logan: A plump, cheerful 8 year-old, Christopher-John is the third-oldest of the Logan children. He is timid and easy going.
- Little Man (Clayton Chester Logan): A meticulously neat 6 year-old first-grader, Little Man is the youngest of the Logan children.
- Papa (David Logan): The father of the Logan children. He values his independence highly, leaving to work on the railroad in order not to lose ownership of Logan land.
- Mama (Mary Logan): The mother of the Logan children and wife of David Logan. She is also a school teacher. Until T.J. had gotten her fired by ratting her out to Harlan Granger and some other people from the board of education because she wasn't teaching what was approved when they came to her class room.
- Uncle Hammer: Papa's brother, Hammer lives in Chicago. He has a short temper. Supports the Logan family by giving the necessary funds to pay their mortgage and offers valuable advice to the children (such as in chapter 7, when Stacey reveals he has given away his new coat to T.J because his friends (mostly T. J.) were calling him a fat preacher).
- Big Ma (Caroline Logan): Papa's mother. A woman of sixty, she runs the Logan farm. She loves all her children. Her husband was Paul Edward Logan who had died before the book. Her children are: Mitchell, Kevin (He drowned), David (Papa), Uncle Hammer, and two baby girls who died in infancy. Her parents are Luke Perry and Rachel Perry.
- Jeremy Simms: A ten year-old white person whose family is very racist. He comes over as being poorly dressed for a white person. Jeremy doesn't like or share his family's beliefs, and tries to be friends with Stacey and the others. For Christmas, Jeremy tries to be nice to Stacey and gives him a flute and Mama a bag of nuts. He lives in a tree house overlooking the neighborhood, in an attempt to be separated from his family, whom he detests. No matter how many times the Logan family shuns him he never stops trying to be their friend. Jeremy has a shy character and is described as having blue eyes and blonde hair.
- Lillian Jean Simms (Miz Lillian Jean) : The older sister of Jeremy but younger than R.W. and Melvin Simms. She humiliates Cassie in Strawberry, and later on in the novel Cassie takes revenge by pretending to be her friend for several weeks and learning all her secrets in the process. After Lillian Jean learns that Cassie was only pretending to be her "friend", she tries to fight her, but then Cassie beats her up and then blackmails her by threatening to let out all of her secrets that she learned and the fact that she got her butt kicked by someone younger than her.
- Melvin and R.W. Simms: The older brothers of Jeremy and Lillian Jean. Melvin and R.W. pretend to be friends with T.J., but have ulterior motives for doing so. They just keep him around so that they can laugh at him behind his back. Although they murder a white man and injured a white woman while pretending to be black, no charges were made against them.
- 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 colored people or immigrants. Charlie grabs Cassie and pushes her off the sidewalk because she will not apologize to Lillian Jean for bumping into her but Cassie's grandmother forces her to apologize.
The whole Wallace family owns a local store and they are very racist. The Wallaces, though no one knows for sure, are most likely the nightriders in this book, and all of the sharecropping families fear them.
- The Wallace Brothers (Kaleb Wallace, Dewberry Wallace, and Thurston Wallace)They own a store: Three white brothers who are local businessmen in their store. They are also antagonists of the Logans. They are responsible for the Berry's burning and responsible for John Berry's death. Mr. Morrison breaks Dewberry Wallace's back and Thurston's arm. They are also cousins to Lillian Jean, Jeremy, R.W., and Melvin.
- John Wallace: The father to Kaleb, Dewberry, and Thurston Wallace. He and his brother Charlie Simms are KKK leaders in Mississippi.
- T.J. Avery: He is Stacey's best friend who is manipulative and cunning to get what he wants (like when he got Stacey to give him his coat which was a gift from Uncle Hammer.) He was later beaten by R.W. and Melvin Simms for trying to stand up against something they say, and later on a mob of nightriders attack him and his family because they thought he stole a gun from Mr. Barnett's store, even though R.W and Melvin were the ones who broke into the store. He then gets arrested for the murder of Mr. Jim Lee Barnett, when instead Melvin and R.W. Simms committed this crime.
- Mr. Wade Jamison: A local lawyer who is also the Logan family's only other white friend. He places first his reputation, and in the end, his life, on the line to assist the black families in their struggle against racism. He protects T.J from white people who try to hurt him. He also backs up the credit for them.
- Harlan Granger: The wealthiest landowner in the county, and the owner of the land surrounding the Logan farm. Originally, the Logan's land was part of the Granger plantation, and Harlan Granger attempts in various ways to regain ownership of it. He seems to be somewhat of an anti-hero, for he is not exactly racist, but he does do business with the Wallace brothers and is plotting to get the Logan's land. But if it weren't for him, TJ would've been killed by Mr. Simms and the Wallace brothers.'
- Mr. Jim Lee Barnett: Owner of the Barnett Mercantile in Strawberry. Early in the book, he throws Cassie out of the store when she protests his favoritism towards white customers. Later, he is robbed and assaulted by the Simms brothers, R.W. and Melvin, which results in his death. T.J., after being tricked by the Simms brothers into helping with the robbery is blamed for this.
- Mr. Morrison: A big, burly man with streaks of white hair who comes to work on the Logan farm. The Logan family all grow to be attached to him and sort of "adopt" him or take care of him. He has red-brown skin color.
- Daisy Crocker: The school teacher for Cassie and Little Man. She goes to Mama to solve the problems with the book after Little Man threw it to the ground and got switched.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was made into a miniseries, telecast on ABC over three nights in the summer of 1978. The cast included Janet MacLachlan, Claudia McNeil, Morgan Freeman, and John Cullum; and was nominated for two Emmy awards. The miniseries was released in the 1990s as a single two-hour videocassette.
- ^ [ Newbery Medal Winners from 1922 to Present]
Awards Preceded by
Song of the Trees
Newbery Medal recipient
Let the Circle Be Unbroken
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