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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Transcript of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Mildred D. Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi on September 13, 1943. When she was very young, she moved to Toledo, Ohio where most of her childhood took place. Taylor says most of the stories she wrote were based from her family's past.
However, now Taylor lives in Colorado with her daughter.
by Mildred D. Taylor
About The Author
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was written in the 1970s by Mildred D. Taylor, at the height of Black Power Movement and the beginning of an increasing presence of African-American history in education. Her ancestors were slaves in the state of Mississippi, as were the ancestors of ten-year-old Cassie Logan, the main character throughout the story. Discrimination and segregation continued throughout the 1930s, during which Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry takes place. The Great Depression began in 1929, when the stock market crashed. A forty-percent drop in the price of farm products and resulting foreclosures on many farms in the early 1920s contributed to the crash. Between 1929 and 1933, the years in which the novel is set, the price of farm goods fell a further fifty percent. In 1933, the unemployment rate was twenty-five percent (thirteen million people).
Black Power Movement
The movement for Black Power in the U.S. emerged from the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. Beginning in 1959, Robert F. Willams, president of the Monroe, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, openly questioned the ideology of nonviolence and its domination of the movement's strategy. Williams was supported by prominent leaders such as Ella Baker and James Forman, and opposed by others, such as Roy Wilkins(the national NAACP chairman) and Martin Luther King. In 1961, Maya Angelou, Leroi Jones, and Mae Mallory led a riotous (and widely-covered) demonstration at the United Nations to protest the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Malcolm X, national representative of the Nation of Islam, also launched an extended critique of nonviolence and integrationism at this time. After seeing the increasing militancy of blacks in the wake of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and wearying of the domination of Elijah Muhammed over the Nation of Islam, Malcolm left that organization and engaged with the mainstream of the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm was now open to voluntary integration as a long-term goal, but still supported armed self-defense, self-reliance, and black nationalism; he became a simultaneous spokesman for the militant wing of the Civil Rights Movement and the non-separatist wing of the Black Power movement.
Discrimination & Segregation
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual or group based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, "in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated.
Racial segregation is separation of humans into racial groups in daily life.
The Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in 1930 and lasted until the late 1930s or middle 1940s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century.
Meet the Characters
Clayton Chester "Little Man" Logan
David "Papa" Logan
Mary "Mama" Logan
Caroline "Big Ma" Logan
Lillian Jean Simms
R.W. & Melvin Simms
Kaleb, Thurston, and Dewberry Wallace
Mr. Wade Jamison
Jim Lee Barnett
Little Willie Wiggins
Gracey Pearson, Alma Scott, and Mary Lou Wellever
Miss Daisy Crocker
Mr. Silas Lanier
John Henry, Beacon, and Samuel Berry
Cassie is the ten-year-old narrator of her adventure. She is the second oldest and the only female child throughout her family. She is described as intelligent, outspoken, and self-confident. Over the course of the novel, Cassie experiences racism and learns the real dangers of being black in the South during the 1930s.
Stacey is the oldest child in the Logan family. He is old enough to disobey his parents, yet not old enough to accept the consequences of doing so. His dawning awareness of racism leads him to make difficult choices, like pushing away his white friend Jeremy. In the end, he proves his bravery and loyalty by risking danger and by attempting to help his estranged friend, TJ.
At the age of seven, Christopher-John is a short, chubby boy, also known as the quietest Logan sibling. He is always cheerful but frequently reminds the other children that they are breaking their parents' rules. Despite his misgivings, he usually ends up following his other siblings to avoid being left behind.
Clayton Chester "Little Man" Logan
Little Man, age six, is a smart boy with a highly developed sense of right and wrong. Able to read before he started school, he partakes in his older siblings' adventures and in doing so learns a great deal about the racist South.
Integrationism (also known as integrational linguistics) is an approach in the theory of communication that emphasizes the importance of context and rejects rule-based models of language.
David "Papa" Logan
A tall, handsome man, Papa is Big Ma's second youngest son. He works from the end of planting until Christmas on the railroad in order to pay for his land. He was raised on the same farm on which his family now lives. Ready to stand up for himself and his family, he does what he "gotta do" to survive and respect himself.
Mary "Mama" Logan
A thirty-three year old woman from the Delta, Mama went to high school in Jackson and was sent to the Crandon Teacher School by her tenant-farmer father. Her father died during her final year in teacher school, and she married Papa when she was nineteen. She has taught at the Great Faith school for fourteen years, and has four children of her own. Her strong pride in her race and her sense of justice lead her to paste over the inside covers of the schoolbooks, where the "very poor" condition of the book is listed next to the race of the black students. This outspokenness results in her being fired by the white school board. Though she tries to keep stories of the violence and injustice around them from her children, she ultimately cannot shield them from the truth.
Caroline "Big Ma" Logan
Papa's mother is a woman in her sixties.
The Logan Family
The Logan Family
The Logan Family
The Logan Family
The Logan Family
The Logan Family
The Logan Family
Hammer is Big Ma's only living son other than Papa. He lives in the North and drives a Packard like Mr. Granger does.
The Logan Family
Cassie Logan and her three brothers (Stacey, Christopher-John, and Little Man) walk down a dusty road in rural Mississippi on their way to the first day of school in the fall of 1933.Cassie is annoyed that they must go to school on a "bright August-like October morning" and is even more annoyed that they must wear their Sunday clothes and shoes.
Halfway to school, an "emaciated-looking" barefoot boy named TJ and his brother Claude emerge from the trees and walk with the Logan children. TJ failed Mrs. Logan's class the previous year and will be in it again with Stacey.
The children have to jump out of the way as a school bus rushes by and covers them with dust. Stacey explains to Little Man, who is furious, that the bus is only for white children and that they don't have a bus. A blond white boy named Jeremy runs out of the forest and starts walking with the Logans.
Miss Crocker announces that they will all have books this year. Cassie has never had one of her own before and is excited until she notices that they are old and worn. She sees how excited Little Man is to get a first grade reader because he cannot see the cover. Cassie picks up her book and begins to read it until she hears Miss Crocker yelling at Little Man because he has asked for a book that is not dirty.
Little Man takes the book back to his desk, but when he opens it, sees something inside it that makes him throw it on the floor and stomp on it. Cassie looks inside her book and sees columns listing the book's condition and the race of the student for every year from 1922-1933. This is the first year that the book's condition is listed as "very poor" and the first time that the race of the student is listed as "nigra" instead of "white."
As Miss Crocker is about to take the switch to Little Man, Cassie explains that her brother can already read and shows the teacher why he was angry. Miss Crocker tells Cassie that the books says "nigra" because that's what she is and orders her to sit down.
Mama trims brown paper to the size of the page and glues it over the inside covers of her children's books. Miss Crocker is shocked that she would "damage" county property, but Mama says she is going to do it to all the seventh graders' books the next day.
This chapter provides an introduction to the social and historical structure of black life in the South in the 1930s.
Papa says that he came home to bring Mr. Morrison, who is going to work in the house as a hired hand for room and board and a few dollars in the winter. He used to work on the railroad but cannot get work anymore.
TJ's father says that he heard that a boy was lynched in Crosston a few days ago. Mr. Lanier says that the worst thing is that no one can do anything about it.
Lynching is the practice whereby a mob--usually several dozen or several hundred persons--takes the law into its own hands in order to injure and kill a person accused of some wrongdoing.
The use of derogatory, racist terms and the act of racist hate-crimes are part of a continuum of power.
In October, the weather turns to heavy rain, and the Logan children are soaked walking to school. The driver of the white children's school bus enjoys splashing them with mud when he drives by. This particularly upsets Little Man, who can't understand why the black children don't have a school bus of their own.
At TJ's suggestion, they set off down the road rather than wait in the rain, and five minutes later the bus passes, veering close to them and forcing them to jump in the slimy, muddy gully to avoid being hit.
Stacey makes Little Man, Christopher-John, and Cassie promise to meet him in the school tool shed at lunch. They take buckets and shovels and return to the spot where they were forced off the road. There, they dig a ditch across the area that fills with gully water and makes it look as if the road washed out from the rain.
As a result of hard rain during the afternoon, their "yard-wide ditch" has become a "twelve foot lake." They hide in the forest bank and watch as the Jefferson Davis school-bus approaches. Thinking that it is a puddle, the driver drives the bus straight into the hole, breaking the axle and waterlogging the engine.
so filled or flooded with water as to be heavy or unmanageable
Cassie worries that the men are coming after them because of what they did to the bus, and Stacey feels as if it were his fault because it was his idea to dig the ditch.
Once again, thunder plays a symbolic role in Cassie's world.
One Sunday, Cassie helps make butter and hears Mama and Big Ma talk about how she and the children have been acting strangely for several weeks. She cannot tell her mother what is wrong because she and her little brothers promised Stacey that they would say nothing about the bus.
TJ suggests that Stacey look for the questions to the upcoming history test in his mother's room. He then tells the Logan children that the "night men" tarred and feathered Sam Tatum because he accused Mr. Barnett, who owns a store in Strawberry, of charging him for things he didn't buy.
On the way to school the next day, TJ offers to share his cheat sheet with Stacey, and Stacey rips it up.
A boy named Little Willie says that Stacey was caught with a cheat sheet which he'd grabbed from TJ in class and was whipped by his mother. Stacey and all the other children take off after TJ, and Moe Turner tells them that he went to the Wallace Store.
Stacey confesses to his mother that he went to the Wallace store. Mama sends them to bed early and then, on Saturday, takes them to see the Berry's. Mr. Berry is burned beyond recognition and cannot speak.
In this chapter, Cassie's struggle to grow up is further represented through the divisions which separate her from her mother and grandmother.
Mildred D. Taylor wrote this novel in
Cassie's point of view. This affects the reader by letting themselves melt into the character. You eventually learn to think like the character, which is what the author normally intends.
WHY DID MILDRED WRITE ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY IN 1ST PERSON?
Mildred probably felt closer to Cassie as a whole because she had such a connection with her. It was most likely easier to write and understand Cassie's point of view.
Allusion - a reference to a person, place, poem, book, event, etc., which is not part of the story, that the author expects the reader will recognize
Coming of Age - a novel or other work of literature in which the main character or characters grow, mature, or understand the world in adult terms
Dialect - a particular kind of speech used by members of one specific group because of its geographical location or class
Flat or Static character - a one-dimensional character who lacks diversity and complexity; a character who is either all good or all bad and does not change. Because the character behaves in just one way, he or she is easy to comprehend
Foreshadowing - the use of hints or clues in a story to suggest what action is to come. Foreshadowing is frequently used to create interest and build suspense
Inference - the act of drawing a conclusion that is not actually stated by the author
Irony - a perception of inconsistency, sometimes humorous, in which the significance and understanding of a statement or event is changed by its context
Dramatic Irony - the audience or reader knows more about a character’s situation than the character does and knows that the character’s understanding is incorrect
Structural Irony – the use of a naïve hero, whose incorrect perceptions differ from the reader’s correct ones
Verbal Irony - a discrepancy between what is said and what is really meant; sarcasm
Loss of Innocence - a story in which an innocent child or young adult lives a blissful and happy life, untouched by evil or hardship. This innocence is shattered, however, by what the character observes or experiences about the world, which changes him or her
Metaphor - a comparison of two things that are basically dissimilar in which one is described in terms of the other
Narrator - the one who tells the story. The narrator must not be confused with “author,” the one who writes the story. If the narrator is a character in the book, the proper term is “first-person narration.”
Rite of Passage - a physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional test which a young person must overcome in order to be accepted and perceived as an adult by the rest of his or her society
Round Characters - characters that have many sides; they have both faults and virtues and, therefore, are able to surprise the reader. They are like real people
Setting - when and where the short story, play, poem, or novel takes place
Simile - a comparison between two different things using either like or as
Stereotyping- the act of putting people into groups based on race, religion, nationality, physical appearance, social class, or some other easily identifiable characteristic
Symbol - an object, person, or place that has a meaning in itself and that also stands for something larger than itself, usually an idea or concept; some concrete thing which represents an abstraction
Theme - the central or dominant idea behind the story; the most important aspect that emerges from how the book treats its subject. Sometimes theme is easy to see, but, at other times, it may be more difficult. Theme is usually expressed indirectly, as an element the reader must figure out. It is a universal statement about humanity, rather than a simple statement dealing with plot or characters in the story. Themes are generally hinted at through different methods: a phrase or quotation that introduces the novel, a recurring element in the book, or an observation made that is reinforced through plot, dialogue, or characters. It must be emphasized that not all works of literature have themes in them
The story is set in Mississippi during the Great Depression around 1933-1934.
Cassie learns how disaster can result from choosing friends for the wrong reason as well as how to use false friendship to her own advantage. She and her siblings also discover that sometimes people who are not blood related are just as important as actual relatives. Part of growing up is developing an understanding of the things that really hold families and friends together.
COMING OF AGE
Cassie’s childhood in the American South is overshadowed by the forces of white oppression and racism that force her to grow up painfully aware of inequalities between blacks and whites. As Papa advises her to do “what you gotta do” Cassie must learn which things are best left along and which are worth fighting for.
“By the time I entered high school,
I had a driving compulsion to paint
a truer picture of Black people....
I wanted to show a Black family
united in love and pride, of which the
reader would like to be a part.”
—Mildred D. Taylor
Kids like you watch television, listen to CDs, and play video
games for fun. Mildred D. Taylor’s childhood was very
different. She grew up enjoying her father’s interesting stories
about the Taylor family’s life in the Mississippi countryside.
Wilbert Lee Taylor, Mildred’s father, sat by the ﬁreplace in their
home. There, he shared the family’s past with Mildred, her older
sister, Wilma, and their mother, Deletha. From these stories,
Mildred Taylor learned that her family had courage, dignity, and
“I do not know how old I was when the daydreams became more than that, and I decided to write them down, but by the time I entered high school, I was confident that I would one day be a writer.”
—Mildred D. Taylor
Attention, all writers!
Taylor’s struggle to become a writer shows the importance of
searching for your own style and voice. Her hard work and
determination prove the importance of the old saying, “Be true to
Cassie and Stacey depart with Big Ma in the wagon for the market in Strawberry where they will sell butter, milk, and eggs. They have never been allowed to go before, but this time TJ is going along to buy things for his mother, so Big Ma decides to take her grandchildren, too. When they get to Strawberry, Cassie is disappointed to see how small the town is. At first, she doesn't understand why Big Ma parks the wagon so far away from the entrance to the market, but Big Ma assures her that her regular customers will look for her and then tells her that the wagons near the entrance belong to white people.
At the store, TJ shows Stacey and Cassie a pearl-handled revolver in a display case, which he says he wants badly. He gives his mother's list to Mr. Barnett, but Mr. Barnett stops waiting on him to take the orders of several white customers in a row, including a young white girl. It has been almost an hour, and even though Stacey and TJ try to stop her, Cassie marches over to Mr. Barnett to remind him that he has forgotten about them. He responds angrily, telling her to get her "little black self" back to waiting. Cassie protests, until Stacey begins to drag her out of the store, and Mr. Barnett tells him to "make sure she don't come back till yo' mammy teach her what she is."
Cassie walks down the sidewalk, thinking about Mr. Barnett's words to her, and bumps into Lillian Jean Simms, who is with Jeremy and their two younger brothers. Lillian Jean demands an apology, which Cassie reluctantly gives, and then tells her that she should walk in the street. Cassie is trying to keep from being pushed off the sidewalk by Lillian Jean when Mr. Simmons appears and twists Cassie's arm behind her back.
Mr. Simmons demands that Cassie apologize to his daughter, although Jeremy insists she already did. Cassie tries to run away and is met by Big Mama. Mr. Simms demands that Cassie say "I'm sorry, Miz Lillian Jean," and Big Mama reluctantly makes her comply. Cassie says it and runs crying into the wagon, thinking this is the cruelest day that she has ever endured.
Cassie's difficult path toward adulthood passes another milestone when she realizes the implications of the cliche that life is not fair.
As Mama makes dinner, Cassie tries to tell Uncle Hammer about her day in Strawberry but Big Ma keeps interrupting her. Finally, she tells him the whole story, and Uncle Hammer wants to know if it was Charlie Simms who knocked her off the sidewalk. He jumps up, saying he has his own gun when Mama glances at her husband's shotgun, and runs outside. Mama tries to stop him, but he takes off in the Packard. Mr. Morrison jumps in with him right as he is pulling away.
Mama sends the three youngest children to bed and comes in to talk to Cassie. She says that Big Ma did what she did because she didn't want Cassie to get hurt. She tells Cassie that Mr. Simms thinks Lillian Jean is better than her because she is white, even though it's not true. He is the type of person who needs to believe whites are better than blacks to make himself feel big.
After breakfast, Stacey tells his siblings that he asked Mama outright and she said that Mr. Morrison talked to Uncle Hammer all night and did not let him go to the Simmses.
Before they leave for church, Uncle Hammer sees Stacey's too-small raggedy coat and gives him his Christmas present early. It is a beautiful new coat. They drive to church in the Packard, which attracts a lot of attention.
They reach Soldier's Bridge, which can only handle one vehicle at a time. Black people driving wagons often have to back down the bridge when a white person starts down it from the opposite side. A Model T truck has started down the bridge, but Uncle Hammer speeds the Packard across and it backs up. Its passengers, the Wallaces, all touch their hats as the car approaches, thinking it is Mr. Granger, and freeze when they see the Logan family inside. Mama says they will have to pay for this later.
When Cassie accuses Stacey of acting like a know-it-all since going to Louisiana with Papa the previous year (after he explains to her that maybe Big Mama didn't have a choice but to obey Mr. Simms) she demonstrates the difference in the degrees they have become aware of the realities of race in the South.
When Mama asks for Stacey's coat to shorten the sleeves, he has to admit that he has lent it to TJ until he grows into it. TJ was making fun of him, calling him preacher because of the way the coat fit. Mama wants him to get it back, but Uncle Hammer tells Stacey that if he is stupid enough to give his coat away, then TJ can keep it permanently; Stacey will not survive in the world if he lets people take things from him.
Christian mythology plays a strong role in this chapter, which centers around Christmas.
Cassie catches up with Lillian Jean as she is walking to school and tells her that after what happened in Strawberry, she has come to see how the world actually works. She says: "I'm who I am and you're who you are," and offers to carry "Miz Lillian Jean's" books. When Lillian Jean turns toward her school at the crossroads, Jeremy tells her she didn't have to do that.
During January, Cassie calls Lillian Jean "Miz," carries her books, and listens to the secrets that she tells about the girls she is friends with.
After school on the last day of exams, Cassie meets Lillian Jean on the road and tells her that she has something in the woods to show her. After walking into the woods, Cassie throws Lillian Jean's books down on the ground. When Cassie won't pick them up, Lillian Jean slaps her. After the older girl has struck her first, Cassie thinks that it is fair to fight back. Cassie has had Big Ma braid her hair flat to her head so Lillian Jean cannot pull it, but Cassie grabs onto Lillian Jean's long loose hair and twists it until she apologizes for her superior behavior and for the incident in Strawberry. Cassie lets her go saying that if she tells her father about the fight, she will tell Lillian Jean's friends all the secrets that she knows about them. Lillian Jean just cannot understand that Cassie had been fooling her and says "You was such a nice little girl..."
At school the next day, Miss Crocker makes Cassie sit in the cold back of the room, under the window, after catching her daydreaming. Cassie sees Kaleb Wallace outside. Claiming to have to go to the bathroom, she follows to watch from the top of a woodpile as Kaleb, another man, and Harlan Granger enter Mama's classroom. They say that they are representing the School Board and watch as Mama continues the history lesson she that she had been teaching about slavery. Mama talks about its cruelty and the economic benefits that the ruling class got from the free labor of others. Mr. Granger opens a student's book, with the paper pasted on the front cover, and accuses Mama of teaching things that aren't in the book, which was approved by the School Board. He fires her.
The theme of friendship reappears at the end of this chapter and foreshadows disaster.
TJ has been hanging around with his brothers RW and Melvin, who are eighteen and nineteen, and who make fun of TJ behind his back.
Papa wants to bring Stacey to Vicksburg with him so that he'll know how to handle himself, unlike TJ whose parents can no longer whip him. Seven families have decided to keep shopping in Vicksburg, so Papa, Stacey, and Mr. Morrison leave on Wednesday before dawn to do the shopping.
On Thursday, when they are supposed to get back, it begins to rain. Mama is so worried that she considers going out on the horse to look for them, but the wagon arrives. Mr. Morrison carries Papa into the house, his leg splinted with a shotgun and a rag tied around his bleeding head. Mama sends the unwilling children to bed while she prepares to set Papa's broken leg.
Cassie asks who the men were, and Stacey tells her he thinks that it was the Wallace's. Christopher-John and Little Man want to know if Papa is going to die, but Stacey insists that he will be fine in the morning.
Previous chapters have foreshadowed retribution against the Logan's for organizing the boycott of the Wallace store.
Mama has told Cassie that they cannot report the Wallace's to the Sheriff because Mr. Morrison might get put on the chain gang for what he did to them.
TJ and the Simmses come to middle of the gathering and TJ, dressed in trousers, a suit coat, tie, and hat, announces that they are his friends, unaware of the condescending smirks that Cassie sees on their faces. TJ says that his new friends will buy him anything he wants, including the pearl-handled pistol in Barnett's Mercantile. Stacey turns away in disgust and follows everyone into the church, leaving TJ upset that no one cares. RW says they're going to Strawberry to buy him the pistol but TJ stands, looking puzzled and undecided, before finally following them.
The novel continues to move towards its climax as yet another crisis occurs when the bank calls in the note.
Cassie, who can't sleep, hears a tapping at the door. It is TJ. They go in the boys' room and wake up Stacey.
TJ is bruised all over his stomach and chest and thinks "something's busted" inside. His father has threatened to kick him out if he stays out another night, and he needs Stacey to help him walk home.
Stacey demands an explanation, and TJ says that when he got to Strawberry with the RW and Melvin, the store was closed. They said it would be all right to take the gun and just say to anyone who saw them that they were planning to pay the next day. They send TJ, who is skinny, in through a narrow window, and then come in wearing stockings over their faces. While they are trying to break the wall cabinet with an ax, Mr. Barnett comes down to investigate and struggles with Melvin, until RW hits him over the head with the flat side of the axe.
Stacey wants him to stay and get Big Ma to fix his injuries but TJ insists that he has to go home.
Stacey agrees to walk him home. Cassie insists on following, and then Little Man and Christopher-John wake up and decide to come too. They walk to the Avery house and watch TJ slip in through a window. Suddenly, they see lights approaching and quickly hide in the woods.
One man holds up the gun, saying that RW and Melvin saw TJ and two other boys running form the Barnett's store and demanding the money they took.
Cassie and her younger brothers go to get Papa and Mr. Morrison as thunder crashes and lightening splits the sky.
The metaphor of thunder, which has continued throughout the book, takes center stage in this chapter, which is the crisis of the book.
Cassie realizes that TJ will never be free to do all of the things she and her brothers do. She never liked him but he had always been there. She cries for the things which had happened that night: "for TJ. For TJ and the land."
When Cassie tells Papa that there is a mob clamoring to hang TJ, he says to his wife: "This thing's been coming a long time, baby, and TJ just happened to be the one foolish enough to trigger it off."
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