49 pages 1 hour read

Mildred D. Taylor

Let The Circle Be Unbroken

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1981

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Summary and Study Guide


Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981) is part of the Logan Family Saga by author Mildred D. Taylor. The series follows the fortunes of a Black farming family, the Logans, through more than one generation as they experience the tribulations of life in the South before the Civil Rights era. The saga consists of 10 novels and novellas. The award-winning novels include The Land (2001), Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), and The Road to Memphis (1992). The other segments of the 10-volume saga are novellas.

The Land was published more recently than other books in the series but is a prequel to the Logan family history covered in later installments. Roll of Thunder won a Newbery Medal, while Let the Circle Be Unbroken won a Coretta Scott King Award. The novel falls into the categories of Children’s Prejudice and Racism Books and Children’s Multigenerational Families. It is intended for readers aged 10 and up.

This study guide and all its page citations are based on the Kindle edition of the novel.

Content Warning: The novel takes an unflinching look at racism in the American South during the 1930s. Many acts of racial violence are discussed, and the novel contains frequent usage of racial slurs that were common at the time. These are replicated only in direct quotations in this guide.

Plot Summary

The novel takes place in the fictional location of Spokane County, Mississippi. It follows events in the lives of the Logan family from the autumn of 1935 to early January 1937. The story is told using first-person narration from the perspective of 10-year-old Cassie Logan. As the Logan Family Saga unfolds against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the unionization of farm workers, the novel examines the themes of Maintaining Separate Worlds, The Importance of Unity, and The Struggle for Economic Independence.

When the story begins, Cassie describes the day-to-day activities of her close-knit family. She lives with her grandmother, her parents, and three brothers, one of whom is older than her. The Logans are more financially fortunate than other members of their Black community because they have inherited a 400-acre farm and a fine house. Most of their friends are sharecroppers or day laborers who live in one-room, tar-paper shacks.

Aside from establishing the family’s backstory, the novel picks up unresolved plot threads from the preceding installment in the saga. Black teenager T. J. Ellis has been arrested and charged with burglary and murder, even though he was merely an unwitting accomplice to the crimes of two white boys. Cassie and her siblings get a firsthand taste of the inequities of the justice system in the South when they witness TJ’s trial and conviction.

Aside from dealing with the tragedy of this miscarriage of justice, the Logans are facing an economic crisis of their own. The country is in the midst of the Great Depression and falling cotton prices have put the family farm in jeopardy. Wealthy plantation owner Harlan Granger offers to lend the Logans money for taxes, but Cassie’s father recognizes this as a trap. He doesn’t want to become financially dependent on Granger as so many of the planter’s tenants are.

The Logans do their best to stay out of white affairs, but their lives are further complicated by the arrival of a long-lost cousin from the North who has married a white woman and brings his daughter, Suzella, to stay with the Logans. Cassie has difficulty accepting her cousin since she has been conditioned to avoid all white people. For her part, Suzella is faced with the difficult choice of deciding which world to occupy because neither one accepts her interracial parentage.

While this family drama plays out, financial pressures continue to affect the Logans and their neighbors. When a union organizer appears in the county, the family is asked to join an integrated union that will help farm workers of both races. The plantation owners do everything in their power to drive the union supporters out and stir up racial conflict between the two groups of laborers to keep them from amassing strength in numbers to demand better pay.

During this time, Cassie’s father must leave to seek railroad work if the family is to pay its taxes. Shortly afterward, Cassie’s elder brother, Stacey, is lured away to work on a cane plantation in Louisiana with the promise of easy money. Stacey’s departure mobilizes everyone to search for him. When he is found, his tale of abuse and exploitation further underscores the dismal ways farm laborers are manipulated while trying to improve their situation. Once rescued, Stacey concludes that there’s no place like home. The novel ends with the family reunited, allowing their circle to remain unbroken.