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African American Literature Book #3

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Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of thunder, hear my cry. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1976. ISBN:0-590-98207-9.

 

Roll of Thunder: Hear My Cry is the skillfully crafted story of the discriminations and abuses that Cassie’s family endures even after 70 years of the Emancipation of Blacks in America.

Throughout her 4th grade school year Cassie experiences many events that make her realize the place that African Americans have in rural Mississippi society during the 1930s.  Whites consider blacks inferior to themselves.  They are only waiting for an excuse to humiliate and punish them with the objective of not letting them forget who is superior. 

The day Cassie goes to market, she experiences two humiliating incidents.  First, she expects the same treatment as whites at the department store.  The owner of the store troughs her out until she learns how to behave.  Then, she bumps into Lillian Jean Simms and refuses to apologize in the way the white girl wants her to do it.  Mr. Simms pushes her from the sidewalk and in front of Big Ma forces Cassie to apologize.  This is very humiliating to Cassie.  On the way home Cassie feels devastated; she can not understand why things have to be the way they are.

Cassie Logan and her family live on a farm of 400 acres bought years ago by the Grandfather.  Although they are not wealthy, ownership of the land gives them pride and courage to fight back all the attacks done to blacks by whites. Cassie’s father saves T.J.’s life sacrificing part of his own cotton crop.  He sets fire to it in an attempt to divert the attention of the white men that want to hang T.J.  He is only able to do this because he is the owner of his land and not a sharecropper. 

Each character in the story is uniquely crafted to show the different personalities that exist in a regular African American family.  Papa is a man of great values that teaches his children through example.  Mama takes advantage of her teaching to educate the young about the discriminations and abuses done to them.  Big Ma transfers to the family her love for the land.  Even the children are all different from each other.  Stacey as the older brother is very mature and wise.  Christopher-John is always reluctant to follow the others in the adventures, but refuses to stay behind.  Little Man is very set in his ways.  He demands of himself disciple and neatness, and expects others to do the same.  Cassie is very smart, but at her age she ignores many things.  By listening to adult conversations, she is able to understand the reasons behind the awful events that take place around them throughout the year. 

The fact that Cassie is always snooping on adult conversations is considered by some as a weakness of the book.  They say it may send the message to children that it is alright for them to do the same.

This is a great novel that can be used to expose our youth to the oppressions African Americans suffered in the past in order to prevent history from repeating in the future.  Don Hill in his review gives teachers a clever idea to make students understand some of the racial differences portrayed in the story by having them make a simple compare and contrast chart outlining the differences experienced by whites and blacks. 

We should understand and live by the following message.“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.” (p. 96)

 

Refrence:

Hill, Don. Teacher's Study Guide for Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, 1994. http://www.aloha.net/~uncldon/rothmyc.htm