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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Racism and Violence in the United States

As the novel depicts racist policies and customs, it also depicts the violence that allows for their enforcement. Racist characters commit burnings, shootings, and attempt lynchings to maintain the status quo in their community. The Wallace brothers, for instance, burn three men in the Berry family because one of them allegedly flirted with a White woman. When the Logans visit the Berry home, they see “A still form” with “no nose” and lips “wizened black, like charcoal” (97). By confronting the stark physical effects of racism, the novel shows the urgency that efforts to end racism require. Every moment that racism remains virulent in the Jim Crow South puts the physical wellbeing of Black people in jeopardy.

The novel situates racial violence in the Jim Crow South within a broader historical context. Mary tells Cassie how Black “people were first brought from Africa in chains to work as slaves in this country” (127). From the time of that violent introduction, she says, “most folks decided to believe that black people really weren’t people like everybody else” (128). Uncle Hammer advances Mary’s argument when he fumes about Mr. Simms pushing Cassie into the street.