Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry Summary

Mildred Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry

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Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry Summary

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Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor is a children’s classic, which won the Newbery Medal in 1977. The Logan family struggles to hold on to the land that they own and defy racism in segregated Mississippi. The novel shows how the strong ties that bind us to family and land can give us the courage to defeat whatever hardships come our way.

Cassie Logan is a nine-year-old girl living in rural Mississippi in 1933. It is a very difficult time—a time of racial discrimination and segregation, the height of the Great Depression and a period of great economic hardship. Rural farm communities are hit especially hard as crop prices fall dramatically. Cassie, whose grandfather was born a slave, lives with her parents and her three brothers. Her brothers are twelve-year-old Stacey, seven-year-old Christopher-John, and six-year-old Little Man. Her Papa works on the railroad while her Mama is a seventh-grade teacher.

Cassie and her brothers attend a segregated school for African-American children. The county unfairly gives less money to Cassie’s school than the school for white children. Cassie’s school has used textbooks and no money for school buses. Cassie finds offensive writing inside the used textbooks. Her Mama, who works at the school, fixes the textbooks by pasting paper over the words. A school bus full of white children harasses Cassie and her brothers while walking to school in the rain and the mud. As revenge, the Logan children dig a ditch in the road. After school, the bus gets trapped in the ditch and breaks an axle. The white students are left without a school bus for two weeks.

White vigilantes terrorize, physically harm, and kill black members in the community. The Wallace boys kill a local black man and burn some others. The Logan family boycotts Wallace’s store and encourages other members of their community to do so as well. Mr. Logan travels to Vicksburg to buy goods for families participating in the boycott.

Cassie’s family own four hundred acres of land, which is extremely important to them. They work hard to keep their plot of land. Cassie’s Papa spends half of the year away from his family working on the railroad in Louisiana to pay the mortgage.

The family faces numerous struggles holding onto and protecting their land. First, Mama loses her teaching job. She is fired by members of the school board for covering the insides of the textbooks and for teaching her students about the injustices of slavery. Next, Papa breaks his leg when he is run over by a wagon wheel in a violent attack on a trip to Vicksburg. He can’t go back to work at the railroad due to the injury. Now the family has lost two of their sources of income.

Harlan Granger, whose family owned the land in the time of slavery, wants to buy Logan’s land. He forces the Logans to pay the full amount of their bank loan. Uncle Hammer, who is the co-owner of the farm, sells his beloved Packard car to make the payment.

Papa is forced to start a fire in his cotton fields. He makes it look like the fields were struck by lightning. He does so to stop a lynching of Stacey’s friend, TJ after he commits a crime. The lynch mob and the local black farmers must work together to put out the blaze. The lynching is prevented, but TJ’s friend will probably be put on a chain gang for his crimes. The novel ends with Cassie crying for TJ and the land.

Author Mildred Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi on September 13, 1943. Shortly after her birth, her father moved the family to the North due to racially motivated violence in Jackson. Mildred grew up in Toledo, Ohio but made regular visits to Mississippi, where her family had been since the time of slavery. She graduated with a degree in education from the University of Toledo. While in school, she spent her free time writing. After graduating from college, Taylor spent two years with the Peace Corps teaching English and history in Ethiopia. She also earned a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado. As a member of the Black Student Alliance, she helped structure the University of Colorado’s Black Studies program. Her first novel, Song of the Trees (1975) won a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. It is the first in a series of novels told from the perspective of Cassie Logan:  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Let the Circle Be Unbroken and The Road to Memphis. Taylor has won numerous awards for her novels including the Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.