64 pages 2 hours read

Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1976

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Summary and Study Guide


Mildred D. Taylor’s semi-autobiographical Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a middle grade novel first published in 1976. The novel received the 1977 John Newbery Medal and was recognized by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. With more than 6.5 million copies in print, the novel anchors Taylor’s “Logan saga,” a series of novels about the same family. A 1978 TV movie of the novel was nominated for two Emmy Awards. This guide references the 2016 paperback edition.

Plot Summary

In 1933, 9-year-old narrator Cassie Logan lives with her family in rural Mississippi. She and her three brothers—Stacey, Christopher John, and Little Man—walk to the Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School for Black students along a dusty road with their friends. The group must dodge a school bus carrying White students to the better-funded Jefferson Davis School. One of the friends, T.J., tells the Logans that White men set fire to three members of the Berry family. Cassie’s father, David, returns home from his job working on the railroad with Mr. Morrison, who is to help protect the Logans’ home. David decides that his family will no longer shop at the local Wallace store, as they are likely responsible for the attack on the Berrys.

The bus driver from the White school intentionally splashes mud on the Logans, and Stacey devises a plan: the Logan children dig a trench in the road, which fills with rainwater. The bus becomes stuck in the trench, damaging it. Later, they hear that a party of White men is going after more Black families. The Logans worry the men will target her family because of their bus prank. Cassie sees White men outside of the Logan home that night, but they leave without incident. Stacey and the Logans follow T.J. to the Wallace store. Stacey punches T.J. for stealing his mother’s test scores and letting him take the blame. Mary learns they were at the store and takes them to see Mr. Berry’s terrible burns. Stacey, Cassie, and T.J. travel to Strawberry with Big Ma to sell goods. There, Cassie bumps into Lillian Jean Simms. Both Lillian Jean and her father push Cassie, but Big Ma makes Cassie apologize.

Uncle Hammer, David’s brother who lives in Chicago, arrives for a visit. He gifts Stacey a new coat. T.J. teases Stacey about his coat and convinces him to give it to him. Uncle Hammer berates Stacey for letting T.J. fool him and urges him to learn from the mistake. David returns in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. The family tells stories by the fire, and Mr. Morrison closes the night with a sad tale about the massacre of his family by White men during the Reconstruction period, a decade after the Civil War.

Cassie’s mother, Mary, is fired for her role in the boycott. T.J. divulged this role to the White men, so the Logan’s cut ties with T.J. T.J. begins spending time with the White Simms boys. Several families drop out of the Vicksburg arrangement. Still, David goes shopping there with Stacey and Mr. Morrison again. The Wallaces attack their wagon, shooting David. David recovers well. Mr. Morrison takes the children along in the wagon to run an errand. The Wallaces attack again, but Mr. Morrison lifts their truck from the road, stunning them with his strength.

The bank suddenly requires full payment of the Logans’ mortgage, but Uncle Hammer sells his Packard to pay it. One night, T.J. shows up at the Logan house battered and bruised; he broke into the Mercantile with the Simmses, and the brothers likely killed Mr. Barnett and harmed his wife. The Simmses beat T.J. and blame him for the robbery and assault. The Logan children accompany T.J. home, and the Wallaces and Simmses arrive, intending to lynch TJ. They turn him over to a sheriff after David catches his field on fire to distract them.

The White men fight the fire alongside the adult Logans. It begins to rain, dousing the fire. Stacey says that Mr. Jamison used his car to block the Wallaces from taking T.J. Mr. Granger would not intervene until he saw the fire. Then, he ordered the White men to leave T.J. with the sheriff and go fight the fire. David and Mr. Morrison return home and learn that Mr. Barnett died of his injury. Mr. Jamison warns David to lay low. Cassie realizes that her father lit his own field on fire to stop the White men from lynching T.J. Stacey worries that T.J. will receive a death sentence. David cannot say that he will not. Stacey runs into the forest, crying. David follows T.J. Cassie cries in her bed “for T.J. and the land” (276).