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Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and EthicsRoll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics


Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry (1976)


Written by the African American, Mildred D. Taylor (1943- ), pictured right.  


Set in...

Mississippi in 1933 during the Great Depression about the African American Logan family .

Blacks then suffered racial discrimination and segregation.

Many of them were sharecroppers (poor tenant farmers who gave a share of their harvest to their landowner). But the Logans own their farm.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

Fun facts

The author, Mildred D. Taylor, was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, led by Martin Luther King (pictured right).


Key characters

Cassie Logan, the story’s nine-year-old narrator.

Little Man (Clayton Chester Logan), her 6-year-old brother.

Stacey Logan, her 12-year-old brother.

Christopher-John Logan, her 7-year-old brother.

Papa (David Logan), her father, a farmer.

Mama (Mary Logan), her mother, a teacher.

Uncle Hammer, Papa’s brother who lives in Chicago.

Big Ma (Caroline Logan), Papa’s 60-year-old mother and the Logan farm’s boss.

T.J., Stacey’s friend whose parents, Mr and Mrs Avery, are sharecroppers.


The story

The Logan family work hard to keep the small farm they own in Spokane County, Mississippi ,run by the Logan children’s:Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

  • father (Papa), and
  • grandmother (Big Ma).

But they have to endure racist abuse and segregation like other blacks.

On the first day of the school year, Cassie Logan has to walk to school with her three brothers

  • Stacey.
  • Christopher-John. 
  • Little Man.

They are taunted by a bus of white children who shower them with red dust (some days later they retaliate by sabotaging the bus).

Jeremy Simms, a white boy, is often beaten for being their friend.

They go to a black school (where their mother, Mama, is a teacher) and use books the white school no longer needs.

This infuriates Cassie and Little Man who are both whipped by their teacher, Miss Crocker, for refusing the books.

It is announced at church that a black man, John Henry Berry, has died from burns after being attacked by some whites, using the excuse he was “flirting with a white woman”. Berry left a wife and six children.Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

As with other such lynchings, the police turn a blind eye and the killers go free.

Mama discovers from the Berry family that the Wallace brothers burned John. So she organizes a boycott by black people of the Wallaces’ store .

A pro-black white lawyer, Mr. Jamison, financially backs the blacks so that they can get credit at a store in nearby Vicksburg.

Big Ma takes her grandchildren, Cassie and Stacey ,to the nearby town of Strawberry with Stacey’s black friend, T.J. 

Cassie is humiliated by a storekeeper who ignores her and yells at her for tugging at his sleeve.

She is made to apologize by Big Ma who is fighting off continual attempts to buy her farm from Harlan Granger, the greedy owner of the land used by many sharecroppers including T.J.’s family.

Granger is also angry about the boycott, because he owns the Wallaces’ store. So he:

  • persuades the school to dismiss Mama.
  • forces the bank to demand repayment of the Logans’ loan.

The farm is saved when Uncle Hammer, Papa’s brother, sells his car to get the money.

Granger also forces many of the boycotters (families of his sharecroppers) to shop at the Wallaces' store by threatening to throw them off their land.

T.J. and Jeremy’s (white) brothers, Melvin and R.W., steal a gun from a store in Strawberry and injure the owners.

Melvin and R.W. then join a lynch mob who beat up T.J. and his family, saying he is solely responsible for the robbery.

The mob threatens to go to the Logan farm and hang T.J. along with Papa and his farm labourer, Mr. Morrison.

Papa starts a fire on his land to stop the lynch mob which then helps to put it out with the local black farmers.


Lessons for success and ethics

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

1. Hold your head up

The Logan children have been brought up to have self-respect and dignity as a human being equal with everyone else, black or white.

Cassie is defiant and furious when Big Ma makes her apologize to the offensive storekeeper in Strawberry.

Whites aren’t all bad -

  • the lawyer, Mr. Jamison, helps the blacks.
  • Jeremy is a courageous friend of the Logan children.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

2. Fight for your rights

Mama organizes the boycott of the Wallaces’ store which mirrors the bus boycott in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama, that sparked off the American Civil Rights Movement.

Mr. Morrison, the Logans' farm labourer, says:

“Sometimes a person's gotta fight”.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

3. Family and friends are vital

The Logan family support each other with love and trust to:

  • fight racism.
  • keep their farm from Harlan Granger.

Uncle Hammer sells his car to save the farm.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

4. Take control of your life

Most of the black farmers don’t own their land, but the Logans do.

They see their land as a symbol of their:

  • independence.
  • control over their lives.

So they are determined to keep it from Harlan Granger.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

5. Be optimistic

Despite all their problems, the Logans have hope for the future at the end of the book.

They still have their farm, and their family is as united and strong as ever.

There is also hope from whites and blacks successfully working together to put out the fire.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

6. Never give up

The Logans have lots of problems but are always determined to overcome them


7. Do “what you gotta do”

This is how Papa describes his philosophy of life.

So he starts the fire to stop the lynch mob, and his wife, Mama, sacrifices her job for the boycott.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry - Success and Ethics

8. Greed isn’t good

The greedy landowner, Harlan Granger, sacrifices principle for profit.

He helps to dismiss Mama and exploits his farmers.



Key quotes on influencing people

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, Papa (to Cassie)


Key quotes on success

Cassie, there’ll be a whole lot of things you ain’t gonna wanna do – but you’ll have to do in this life so you can survive, Papa

We have no choice of what colour we’re born or who are parents are or whether we’re rich or poor. What we do have is some choice over what we make of our lives once we’re here, Mama (to Cassie)

If you want something, and it’s a good thing and you got it in the right way, you better hang on to it, Uncle Hammer (to Stacey)


Key quote on assertiveness

Everybody born on this earth is somebody, and nobody, no matter what colour, is better than anybody else, Mama (to Cassie)


Key quotes on relationships

Forgiving is not letting something nag at you - rotting you out, Papa

Friends gotta trust each other, Stacey, 'cause ain't nothin' like a true friend, T.J.


Two literature websites to recommend 

1. sparknotes.com

2. litcharts.com


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