Mildred D. Taylor's Newbery Award-winning masterpiece with an introduction written and read by Jacqueline Woodson, just in time for its 40th anniversary!
Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family's struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie's story - Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.
Mildred DeLois Taylor is an African-American writer known for her works exploring the struggle faced by African-American families in the Deep South.
Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but lived there only a short amount of time, then moved to Toledo, Ohio, where she spent most of her childhood. She now lives in Colorado with her daughter.
Many of her works are based on stories of her family that she heard while growing up. She has stated that these anecdotes became very clear in her mind, and in fact, once she realized that adults talked about the past, "I began to visualize all the family who had once known the land, and I felt as if I knew them, too ..." Taylor has talked about how much history was in the stories; some stories took place during times of slavery and some post-slavery.
Taylor's most famous book is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. In 1977, the book won the Newbery Medal. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is the middle book, chronologically, in the Logans series that also includes titles such as The Land, Song of the Trees, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, and The Road to Memphis. Her collective contributions to children's literature resulted in her being awarded the inaugural NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature in 2003.
I first was exposed to this book in fifth grade and I have to say, it changed me forever. The struggles young Cassie Logan and her family faced as a strong black family in the Jim Crow south were eye opening to me. I guess as a child, until I read this book, I thought there was slavery and then there was freedom. This book taught me that there was a LOT of gray in between and it made me angry to know that there really wasn't justice and equality for everyone in my country, the way it was "supposed" to be. It was the first time a book exposed me to the idea that there can and is a disconnect between what laws say, what the government says, and what actually happens in practice. This is the first of a trilogy,followed by "let the circle be unbroken" and "the road to memphis." I loved the whole series.
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.
Set in Mississippi during the Great Depression, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a searing portrait of family and self-worth. Every child deserves to know Taylor's firebrand protagonist, Cassie Logan, and experience her untiring battle against social injustices and racism.
when i was little, i would get dropped off at the library in lieu of daycare, particularly in the summer when there were programs for kids without friends. so how, if i spent my childhood in a library, HOW did i miss out on so many classics of children's literature?? just what was it i was reading?? (answer: mostly lois duncan) but this book is great, really. i have learned to respect the newbery award—except for The Black Pearl (which is just a newbery honor, but still) this book could be republished as an adult book and no one would notice. the writing is very good—she has a great ear for realistic dialogue and she builds tension very well, it is even an adult-book-length! and i was so pleased that the ending didn't make everything all right. i wonder if the woodside library has summer programs for friendless kids. i may have to join them and take the lois duncan out of their hands.
I was talking to my friend who works as a Director for Diversity in one of the college research labs here in the US. It came up in a conversation how much I loved the book The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America's Great Migration. He wasn't as enamored with it and wanted to discuss about why I thought so highly of it. This was not a debate, he truly wanted to understand how that book affected me. I explained that it was a window into my own family history. We talked of the great migration and of our family roots. He mentioned that the book that affected him in the way that "The Warmth of Other Suns" affected me was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. He urged me to read it.
Ostensibly a story very much like the Great Migration, but about those that stayed behind in the South. What was life like for Blacks in the 1930s under Jim Crow? What did it look like through a child's eyes? This was a middle school book which I had never heard of, though it was written around the time that I was in middle school (late 70s) in Ohio. Though I was into science fiction back then, I would have loved to have read this book. I don't recall hearing about a book about a young, black girl growing up in the South. The closest thing that I read in school was To Kill a Mockingbird which was about a young white girl living in the south seeing the injustice of racism first hand. It matters who is telling the story. Scout was witnessing systemic racism while Cassie Logan was experiencing it at the hands of both white and Black people.
This middle grade novel had this middle-aged woman appalled and angry and fearful and ultimately buoyed by the Logan family who endured and survived in their determination to live with dignity in an unjust land. I still love The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America's Great Migration, but this one also conveys the kinds of obstacles (physical, emotional spiritual) that my grandparents/parents must have gone through for me to be where I am today. That is a huge and awe inspiring gift. A book that can elicit that kind of response in me is rare. Thank you to my friend. I get the connection now!
Listened to the audiobook narrated by Lynne Thigpen. She was amazing!
The above sentence was hurled in anger by Cassie Logan, a young girl growing up with her strong, loving family in Mississippi at the height of the Depression. It wasn't the first time I cheered aloud for her spirit and bravery, and it wasn't the last. The Logan family may seem to be at the mercy of the local white folks, but they're not going down without a fight.
Her mother attempts to explain to Cassie the facts:
"How come Mr. Simms went and pushed me like he did?" Mama's eyes looked deeply into mine, locked into them, and she said in a tight clear voice, "Because he thinks Lillian Jean is better than you are, Cassie . . ."
When Cassie wonders if Mr. Simms thinks Lillian Jean is better because she is his daughter, Mama's answer stuns her:
"No, baby, because she's white."
Her father explains things a little differently:
"There are things you can't back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it's up to you to decide what them things are. You have to demand respect in this world, ain't nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for - that's how you gain respect. But, little one, ain't nobody's respect worth more than your own."
The recorded version I listened to offers a powerful afterward by Taylor, whose great-grandfather was born a slave. "Racism still exists," she proclaims, before going on to decry attempts to "whitewash history" by banning books that may be "too painful" or use the "n-word." There is plenty of violence and terror in this book, but it's a compelling story that NEEDS to be read, and a lesson that needs to be repeated again and again.
As Cassie's wise mother states, "Everybody born on this earth is something and nobody, no matter what color, is better than anybody else."
Wow. I read this when I was a kid but reading it now... it's a different experience. Every day I watch videos of white people, emboldened BY Trump's presidency, calling Black people niggers or telling minorities to go back where they came from... and while I was reading this, I just felt a quiet sort of rage.
Mildred Taylor has created a family that isn't the damn Cosby show. They are a simple unit, happy and content, but not unaware of what's going on around them. They are aware of the white people around them, but not afraid of them.
Cassie is... a typical big mouth 9 year old. I love her character though... and she is the perfect narrator for this story.
I felt the strength from Cassie's mom, dad, and Uncle Hammer flow through me as I read this. I would never bow down to a white person... ever. And I'll be damned if I ever will. And my daughter, like Cassie, will follow on those footsteps.
What an important piece of work. You know it's worth reading when it's a Banned Book. “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” made the American Library Association most challenged book in 2002. Some cases where “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” was banned or challenged: **1993: A Louisiana high school removed it from its reading list because of “racial bias.”Mar 24, 2014
This book is about family and the strong ties that bind them, as well as racism in America during the Great Depression. It takes place in Mississippi in 1933, only 68 years after slavery ended. The Narrator is a young black girl named Cassie, and it takes place throughout an entire year, as her family struggles with keeping their cotton farm, all while dealing with cruel and harsh treatment from white townsfolk.
This book won the Newberry Medal in 1976, and I know why. What an amazing book. The audiobook is so powerful_ i highly recommend it. Not only is the story vividly told, but the author herself discusses her life and experiences that molded this novel and it's truly inspiring. And awful. Twice I had to stop the audio and get up and do something else, because I couldn't handle the emotions I was feeling with it. Anger, sadness, embarrassment, disbelief, to name a few.
Anger by far was the most prevalent. A historical fiction novel this is... and isn't.... mainly on the historical part. This garbage is STILL going on, it's still prevalent in this world today and that's sickening. This story takes place in 1933, it was published in 1976, and here we are, in 2016, and this book hasn't dated at all. So sad.
I loved this book! It's definitely a must read for everyone. Here are a couple of my favorite quotations from the book:
(During a conversation between Cassie and her mother after Cassie is treated horribly by Lillian Jean Simms and her father):
"I didn't say that Lillian Jean is better than you. I said Mr. Simms only thinks she is. In fact, he thinks she's better than Stacey or Little Man or Christopher-John--"
"Just 'cause she's his daughter?" I asked, beginning to think Mr. Simms was a bit touched in the head.
"No, baby, because she's white."
Mama's hold tightened on mine, but I exclaimed, "Ah, shoot! White ain't nothin'!"
Mama's grip did not lessen. "It is something, Cassie. White is something just like black is something. Everybody born on this earth is something and nobody, no matter what color, is better than anybody else."
Here's the other quote I really like:
(Uncle Hammer chastising Stacey after Stacey foolishly gives away his brand new coat)
"If you ain't got the brains of a flea to see that this T.J. fellow made a fool of you, then you'll never get anywhere in this world. It's tough out there, boy, and as long as there are people, there's gonna be somebody trying to take what you got and trying to drag you down. It's up to you whether you let them or not...If you want something and it's a good thing and you got it in the right way, you better hang on to it and don't let nobody talk you out of it. You care what a lot of useless people say 'bout you you'll never get anywhere..."
Set in Mississippi during the Great Depression, this must-read book has excellent storytelling and still feels extremely relevant. The dialogue does not feel dated, and its theme of racism is sadly, still very much alive.
Cassie Logan is only nine years old, but she is fierce, having been raised to have self-respect and dignity. She is fiercely loyal to her family members, which include her hardworking papa and schoolteacher mama, her grandma, and her three brothers. We all can learn from such a strong family. The author states she has written about her own family in this fictional story.
Cassie sadly learns about racism as she has her first encounters with injustice, bullying, and cruelty. During the same time frame, some men in the black community have been burned, leading to one death, while the police look the other way. Cassie fears for her family’s safety.
The Logans are a strong, independent family, due to owning their farmland. This book is a story of the Logans’ determination to hold onto their freedom in the form of land ownership, while taking a strong but peaceful stand against violent acts of racism. Their acts of peaceful civil disobedience are similar to the actions of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.
Note: The Mississippi state flag is now the only U.S. flag to include the Confederate battle flag’s saltire.
This has been on our family book shelf f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Sorry I took so long to actually read it. It is marvelous! The main protagonist, nine-year old Cassie Logan, is also the delightful narrator. Excellent, if not sobering way to introduce middle schoolers+ to racism in America in the 1930s.
I cannot help wondering what kind of equivalent book will be written about our era for the young people of tomorrow...
This review was written for my young-adult literature class...
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is a beautifully narrated novel about racism, class distinction, friendship, pride, and love. This novel is told from the perspective of young Cassie Logan, a fourth-grade black girl, and its naïve and innocent voice encourages readers of all ages to question the nature of human cruelty and the universal subject of inequality. This is a coming-of-age, young-adult novel that illustrates the complexities of racial and social discrimination inside a community that depends on each of its members, regardless of racial or social status, to survive. Throughout the book, Mildred Taylor writes with a distinct style and uses setting and sound to symbolize the growing tension in her novel. The first half of her title, Roll of Thunder, also serves as a major motif throughout the novel. Taylor writes with a preoccupation for sounds and she develops the extended metaphor of the growing storm to emphasize tension in the community as well as the need for and the inevitability of relief.
In the beginning pages of the book, Cassie describes the Jefferson Davis County School, the school that the white children attend. The most noticeable detail in Cassie’s description is the school’s Confederate flag that flies above its American flag—showing that racism is very prominent in the community. In these opening pages, the setting is described as dry and hot. The story is still introducing its characters when the tension begins with the rumors of the burnings. The dust from the hot weather, in these opening chapters, dirties the children as they walk to and from school; but, this dust is light and undamaging—Little Man cleans himself of it before he even gets to school. However, the story gets more complex with the introduction of Papa and Mr. Morrison (whose voice was like “the roll of low thunder” (37)), and following the plot’s increasing complexities is the increasing storm. When the rain first begins, it seems light and trivial, but very soon it comes down in torrents, turning all the dust to mud. The children are covered as they march to and from school and in their misery they intensify the community-tension by sabotaging the white children’s bus. Big Ma speaks to Little Man about his concern for the mud, but she also provides a thread of hope amid the books overall theme of racial equality: “ Lord, child, don’t you know one day the sun’ll shine again and you won’t get muddy no more?” (45).
As the story continues, the storm also continues to grow. Although the story is increasingly more intense, there are moments of flux when both the plot and storm seem uncomfortably peaceful; however, each of these times proves to be the warmth and the peace before an even bigger storm erupts. At the very end of the story, the tension is at its peak. The electricity from the lightning fills the air as the Logan children accompany the injured T.J. back to his home. At this point the Wallaces drive up in a “crescendo of ugly hate” (254) that seems to echo the lightning and thunder, and soon it seems that the whole community is at war—ironic since many of the men fought together in the Civil War. T.J. is taken away, Papa leaves the house, and the field starts on fire; there is a frenzy of commotion and anxiety as Big Ma and Mama leave to save the land. The rain finally comes as a relief from the storm and the fire. The Logan children laugh joyously into the thundering night before heading to the fields where they find the entire community, regardless of race, working together to put out the fire. In perhaps the most poignant moment of the book, the community gathers together to work and to save what matters most to them. The book ends with pouring rain, which suggests that neither the literal storm nor the storm of inequality is over (as would the appearance of a rainbow for example); however, the rain suggests relief and hope. Survival and equality in the community is possible—they must work together amid the war. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a book that captures its readers through its emotional story and its captivating narrative. Mildred Taylor uncovers many issues regarding racial and societal inequality through her complex characters. Her novel is one that describes the harshness of reality, but it does so while providing hope for the future.
I loved this book. I read it in elementary school and remember weeping at the end. Reading it again I realize how many complex issues it discusses and how beautifully it is written. Cassie Logan is the most intriguing narrator. This book is a must read for children.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
When I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry twice in elementary school, I had no idea of the maturity of the themes and depth of the situations the Logans had to endure.
Now, in my mid-20s, I can appreciate this gem for what it is. Besides the superb writing, the thing that stands out to me about this book is the theme of sacrifice as part of everyday life for Black folks in Depression-era Mississippi. Children taking turns getting new shoes, going without the comfort food you love so much in order to afford to keep the land, and, ultimately, endangering the thing you cherish most to save a life.
Taylor is unflinching in her portrayal of racism and it’s heartbreaking to read about these children having to cope with constantly being dehumanized and endangered in the name of white supremacy.
This book is essential reading for folks of any age.
This is a tremendously beautiful story. By the time it ends you feel like you know every single character. I hated to say goodbye to the Logans but I am also afraid to read the other stories in case they are not as good. Truly important book which continually made me ask myself, "Would I have done that if I grew up in that culture?" It is a scary question.
An amazing and essential story I’ve read twice. I think good YA will always be with me because it tells stories that ought to be told and known and does so with a beautiful simplicity and power. Well rendered YA is for everyone regardless of the reader’s age.
Here is Cassie’s story of hard years and the overcoming of what is meant to crush body and soul. By fire. Though everyone is damaged in the end.
Roll of Thunder was banned this past August in Burbank, Southern California. It joins Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as yet another banned book. Authenticity is under attack in many places.
Yet Roll of Thunder won the Newberry Medal.
Roll of thunder Hear my cry Over the water Bye and bye Ole man comin’ Down the line Whip in hand to Beat me down But I ain’t Gonna let him Turn me around.
I truly had high hopes for this book, as it is highly recommended. However, I am completely dissatisfied by the whole story. The whole story is against racism, and yet all whites are evil and racist except for a few exceptions, and all blacks are hardworking and good except for a few exceptions. The characters are all boring and one sided, and has little to no character development. All the characters are so similar that you get mixed up with who’s who. Also, there was too much description. WE DID NOT NEED TO DEVOTE SO MANY PAGES TO A HISTORY OF THE LOGAN FAMILY. Honestly, no one cares about the Logan family history. This was a terrible book and DON’T BUY IT.
What a great story, set to the context of the segregated South. I read this to my kids and, as a half black man, I was proud to expose them to such an important segment of our history. I grew up largely in a white community, and now so do my kids. So to have a portal into the the American Negro past was truly a blessing. I'm proud to have an African-American descent and I want them to be as well, or at least gain awareness and a sense of solidarity with their forebears.
All of us loved the story. LOVED the characters. Loved the Logan family! And oh, to know each one of them - Pa, Mama, Stacey, Cassie, Christopher John, Little Man, and Big Ma. Talk about personality! And talk about a family rich in love, frugality, industry, dignity (when it was hard to come by), and human goodness.
Mildred Taylor says in the forward of her book that although the story is fiction, it consisted of the stories she grew up listening to by fireside. So, yes, the story may have been fiction, but the stories it represented were not. It had all the elements of reality. This stuff happened. These people lived. And their lives are memorialized in this narrative.
And I love when stories have real-life complexity. Stories that highlight the many facets of human nature - the tender, the beautiful, all the way down to the tragic.
I highly recommend this book. And plan to revisit it again as a family.
'Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry' is a book about racism in America during the Great Depression. During reading this book, it made me feel anxious that the idea of racism, judgment, criticism, and stereotypes are existing in our society. I feel bad for the people who are considered different from us just by how they look, what their race is, and what their skin color is. I wish that it will be gone forever. With a sudden flash, BOOM. NO RACISM. Everyone is treated fairly. Everyone is equal. That's my dream society. That's my hope and wish that might happen in the future. However, I know that this is what cannot happen in reality. People's thoughts. Our thoughts about people who have different aspects and characteristics should change. It is our thoughts that are making people in our society being judged and criticized. We need to start thinking in another way about people, humans. That is how we can finish racism. I thought to myself while reading, "When will racism end? When will the idea of racism be gone and be broken in our society?", and I think that the answer is that, racism and criticism of people who are different from "normal" people will never end. It will last as long as it can. Forever. Until we come to a day when everyone starts to abandon the thoughts and stereotypes and make a new society where there is no racism existing.
No, I do not really feel like meticulously and in any way thoroughly rereading Mildred D. Taylor's 1976 (and 1977 Newbery Award winning) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry at this time.
For I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Call for an in-class reading assignment in Social Studies (in Alberta, Canada, in grade eight, in 1980, when we did a small bit on the USA, and that yes, this teaching unit of course also featured information and details not only on slavery but also on the aftermath of slavery and that after emancipation, there was of course not suddenly total freedom for and absolute acceptance of African Americans). And while I very much and gladly recall that Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry presented many interesting and worthwhile, necessary platforms for discussion, debate and also much soul-searching (when we covered Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in class, that is), I also think and believe (both my adult self and equally my inner child) that for pleasure reading, that for actual reading joy, Mildred D. Taylor's presented characters are textually speaking rather underdeveloped at best and that the featured storyline for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry feels rather frustratingly wooden and is often so annoyingly preachy that while as a textbook or as an in-class reading assignment, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry functions alright and even should work rather well, sorry, but for me and in my humble opinion, Roll of Thunder, hear My Cry, it just does not really show all that much textual promise as an actual novel, as an interesting and engaging story in and of itself. So well and definitely, and since I have read far too many children's novels with in particular annoyingly insufficient character development lately, I am just not in the reading mood to revisit Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry at present in any kind of detail and I am just going to be rating Mildred D. Talylor's presented text as an important account but also as a narrative that could be a lot more interesting and enjoyable with less overt preaching and more nuanced characters (but of course, I also do hope that Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is not on American book banners' hit lists, but that indeed, it would also not at all surprise me, if that were in fact the case).
This was written in the late 70s, about a black family in the early 1930s in the South, the mother of whom was fired for teaching her students about slavery which many people at that time could still remember in their own living memory, and here we are in the 2020s still debating if we should teach our history honestly or not, including all the good, bad, and ugly. (The answer is yes, btw, in case you weren't certain.)
I'm enjoying this series more than I thought I would, though I didn't go into this with any expectations at all. The only book I knew of was this one and I'd never read it back when I was a kid. I can see why this won an award. Like the other books in this series, it approaches this volatile time of our history and the systemic racism that formerly enslaved African-Americans faced in trying to find that life, liberty and pursuit of hapoiness the Founding Fathers supposedly promised us all, but it does so in an approachable and non-preachy way. For being aimed at children, it addresses the heavy topics through the eyes of a child but it doesn't talk down to children.
Cassie can be infuriating at times, but I have to remind myself she's only 9, and any lack of understanding she has for the events going on around her and what her "place" in society is supposed to be aren't on her shoulders but on those of the adults around her. We see her fear and confusion, and understand more than her what is happening and why, but also because it's a child's eyes, we see how dumb a lot of this is too.
We need to do better. One day, if we do things right, people will read this book and shake their heads in wonder that things were ever like this, instead of shaking their heads in shame that things really haven't improved that much and are actually now taking big steps backwards in some parts of the country even as I type this. *sigh*
Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, on its surface, seems to be a response to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. They're both similar in their setting and their themes. While a major theme in both is racism in the Jim Crow-era South, they tackle this theme from different perspectives. Harper Lee's heroine is a young white girl, and Mildred D. Taylor's young heroine is a young black girl. To Kill a Mockingbird was written 16 years earlier than Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and perhaps in 1960 it would have been more difficult for a black woman to write the sort of critique of the South that Lee does. However, one of the problems with To Kill a Mockingbird is that it tells its story of racism from the safe eyes of a young white girl, and its portrayal of race ends up being condescending. It takes a virtuous white man like Atticus Finch to defend the injustices done to the black community, and in the novel Atticus is revered as a saint. On the other hand, Taylor's Logan family is strong and self-sufficient and doesn't need the aid of whites to survive. Taylor tells an inspiring and compelling drama.
Nine-year-old Cassie Logan is a fortunate young girl because her family owns their own land. In 1933 in Mississippi, this is a rare thing for a black family, and the other black families are sharecroppers, owing huge debts to the more powerful white farmers in the area. This helps keep the white-black power hierarchy of slavery times alive. The whites don't like the face that the Logans own their own land, because it makes them independent, which is a kind of power on its own.
Cassie is the second youngest of four kids, with her oldest brother Stacey beginning to transition into manhood, her next oldest brother Christopher-John the most timid of all, and her youngest brother Little Man not afraid to speak his mind, and a strong little mind he has. Cassie and her brothers live with their mother, Mary, and grandmother, Big Ma, and her father, David, spends most of the year in Texas working on railroads. The family grows cotton to help pay off the mortgage and taxes, while David's money buys things the family needs. Mary earns some extra income as well, teaching at the local school for blacks, where she spreads progressive values.
The Logan kids walk a mile to school every day in the short school year, which is based around the crop cycle. The white kids ride the bus to a separate school, and the bus driver takes special joy in tormenting the black kids that cross its path. This upsets Little Man, who prides himself on his cleanliness, when the bus sprays him with red dust from the road on his first day at school. Little Man is also upset when he and his classmates receive books for the first time, but they turn out to be ragged hand-me-downs from the white students. Little Man's teacher scolds him because she believes everyone should be happy with what they have, but the Logan family disagrees. It's a matter of equality and fairness.
Other important characters include T.J., Stacey's best friend. He likes attention and will do anything to get it, even though this gets him into big trouble. There is also Mr. Morrison, who Cassie's father brings from the railroads to live with the family because he got himself into some trouble. He's a very large and very kind man, and it's clear that Cassie's father, David, feels better having him there to protect the family from danger. The main antagonist is Harlan Granger, whose family used to own the land the Logans now own, and he wants to buy it back from them. When the Logans begin trying to shake up the white power, Granger does everything in his power to try to get them evicted. Cassie's Uncle Hammer stirs things up even more when he comes from Chicago to visit and shows off his brand new car. In Mississippi, blacks should know their place, but Uncle Hammer isn't afraid to flaunt what he has.
The story is told from the perspective of Cassie, in the first person, and it's clear to readers that she and her brothers are only beginning to realize the realities of racism that is an everyday source of fear for the adults. Cassie has a strong sense of fairness, and when she, Stacey, and T.J. are neglected by a white shopkeeper in favor of the white patrons, she speaks her mind without realizing the dangers of doing so. She doesn't understand why her grandmother won't back her up in another dispute with a white girl, either. She's expected to keep her mouth shut though it goes against her very nature. Worst of all, the law turns a blind eye to the crimes committed by whites against blacks. For example, everyone knows the Wallaces, another powerful white family in the community, burned two black men for supposedly flirting with a white woman, but nothing's done about it, and Cassie doesn't understand why. She has a sense that everything should be fair, but hasn't yet realized that the world she has grown up in is more fair to some than to others.
There are a couple of sympathetic whites in the novel. There's the boy, Jeremy Wallace, who tries to befriend the Logan children. He doesn't like the way his family treats blacks, but because he's a Wallace, the Logans are wary of his attempts to befriend them. The reader can't help but root for Jeremy, and it seems the story is about to head in a direction towards friendship when Stacey confesses to his father that he actually likes Jeremy and thinks he would be a good friend. His father, however, warns Stacey that good things rarely come from a relationship between a black and a white man. The white man, being in a position of power, will always think of himself as better than the black man, and one day the sweet and innocent Jeremy might think himself a man while he still regards Stacey as a boy. Pragmatism is more important for survival than romanticism.
The other sympathetic white man is Mr. Jamison, a lawyer who helps the Logans with their mortgage and other legal matters. He takes a big risk when he decides to help them shake up the racial power dynamics by backing the credit of the other blacks in the community so they can shop somewhere that they won't be held ransom to their debt. The Logans are reluctant to accept his offer, but find that they have no choice. It would seem that this black family must rely on a benevolent white man to improve the situation of their town, but things aren't so simple, and Mr. Jamison is not portrayed with the same reverence as Atticus Finch.
Most of all, this is a story for young teens. It's about a young teenage girl growing up in a harsh and unfair world, though still experiencing the same growing pains and life lessons as anybody else. Anybody can relate to this story, and it has an even deeper resonance because of this nation's history. It has a beautiful story, and its power is felt the strongest at its conclusion. While I agree that everybody should read To Kill A Mockingbird, I also believe the same is true of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. It is a powerful, important, and enjoyable piece of American literature.
In this award-winning novel for young people, all the black people (with possibly one exception) are honest, kind, hardworking, ambitious, intelligent, and good looking. All the white people (with one or two exceptions) are cruel, dishonest, malevolent rednecks, who persecute the "colored people" for no reason at all. Historically, the Jim Crow era wasn’t all smiles and sassafrass tea, but there were good and bad people on both sides of the street, just like now. In our current climate of political correctness, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, but young people are still required to read this tripe. Let's hope that English teachers will soon get a clue.
One of the better representations of systemic racism I can think of -- and bonus points for it not having a tidy ending!
One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching to my students in 2020 (comprising of mainly white and Asian students) is that they genuinely believe we live in a post-racist world (fools!). Many genuinely believe "I have a Dream" was the beginning of the end of racism. So much of our culture is predicated on closet racism, micro-expressions, and re-labelling of racist policies to more palpable terminology (See: Michelle Alexander and her argument of prisons = slavery). Keep in mind that students also go through curricula that present racism as historical, meaning the students are never asked to openly question their own biases because it's treated as something that happened and not happening; therefore, it's understandably difficult for them to understand what the big deal is.
This is why Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is remarkable in its presentation. Setting aside the historical context, let's look at the content of the book: the characters don't explain what racism is, they show the myriad ways in which racism permeate the lives of the Logan family. Taylor doesn't have to say, "Black children are underprivileged and undermined because of the belief that they are inferior", she simply has to have one of her characters be deeply hurt and flabbergasted as to why he's receiving a book that is outdated, marked up, and has a list white children's names ending with "n--" at the bottom in which he should put his name. She doesn't have to explain coercive power by having the characters talk about how white men keep them in line by terrorising them, she simply needs to show a night of flashing car lights entering and leaving a driveway as a warning.
One of the keys to teaching, for me, is to refuse to tell my students what is important -- because they won't listen. Instead, I must present the evidence and force them to use their critical thinking to allow their conscious to decide. Exposure to the feeling state of oppression and repression, I believe, is the only way in which my students can learn what it feels like to be someone to whom they aren't, to experience what they likely will never experience, in order for them to look at others with more empathy -- and Taylor does just this, succinctly and with compassion. Taylor may have written about a year in the life of a Black family after the Reconstruction era but she wasn't just writing for them, she was writing for the rest of us who need to understand what it feels like to be Cassie Logan, who cries for a boy named TJ because he made the wrong choice out of the very human need to be respected and appreciated -- a choice he and those he represents will pay for with their lives.
Another reread for me. Given to me as a gift from a friend of my parents, I first read this when I had just turned 13. Although I didn't remember a lot of details (37 years have passed since I read it) I do remember loving the characters, especially Cassie and Little Man. I also remember being incredulous that people were treated in such an awful way just because of the color of their skin. Although I consider myself to have been somewhat naive back then, and also a late bloomer, I grew up in a liberal household where racist comments were never made (thankfully). I remember being shocked when I first heard kids use "the N word", and other words that were used to describe people of different races, a lot of them I didn't know and had to ask what they meant.
My feelings about the book haven't changed. I still loved all the members of the Logan family, probably even more than I did when I was 13 because I understand so much more. Being older and "wiser", I saw so much more of their strength and passion. I didn't remember Uncle Hammer and on this reading of the book he became one of my favorites.
I don't even remember which family friend gave me the book but now I see how cool and "on point" they were way back in 1977. This is one of those books I think everyone should read. I'm so glad I was given this book and that I kept it. I think it's one of the only books that I still have from when I was young. It came with me every where I moved and will remain with me, both figuratively and literally.
Excerpt from Author's Note: From my father the storyteller I learned to respect the past, to respect my own heritage and myself.
"Just 'cause she's his daughter?" I asked, beginning to think Mr. Simms was a bit touched in the head. "No, baby, because she's white." Mamas's hold tightened on mine, but I exclaimed, "Ah, shoot! White ain't nothin'!" Mama's grip did not lessen. "It is something, Cassie. White is something just like black is something. Everybody born on this earth is something and nobody, no matter what color, is better than anybody else." (PG. 127)
I was surprised at the power this book held over me while reading it. Mildred D. Taylor is a master storyteller. It reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird but with its own message of being a proud landowner and taking care of your community and its inhabitants, in this case the black community.
The story is told by Cassie, the second eldest of four children, and her misadventures. Her perceptions of the injustice in her community are told through her eyes. Her Papa is a man to behold. He commands respect because of his actions and understandings, not out of fear. I feel this book honored her father's memory because he died before the book went into publication. He was a big influence in her life and passed on these remarkable stories that would have been lost had he not shared his wisdom.
This is marketed as YA but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good historical fiction story set in the South (United States) during the Depression. The United States has a lot of hidden history and horrible truths we have to uncover ourselves because schools sugarcoat the truth or just decide it shouldn't be taught just like the politicians holding back information from the taxpayers. If you don't ask questions and believe what you see or hear (esp on social media nowadays) how can you grow as a person and teach the future generations any better?