Notes on Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Themes

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Topic Tracking: Racism

Chapter 1

Racism 1: Cassie and her brothers are terrified to learn that anyone could treat black people the way the Berrys were treated. The idea that someone could want to hurt someone so badly just because of their skin color is very frightening to them. T.J., however, treats the event as simply an interesting story, even though he is black too.

Racism 2: The books that Cassie and the other students are using were used by white children until they were considered too worn out, then they were given to black children. The books even include the race of the student, using the word "nigra." Cassie and Little Man get angry, but everyone else, including the teacher, just accepts what they are given.

Chapter 2

Racism 3: The black townspeople agree that white violence against them is getting worse. Mama is happy to have the strong Mr. Morrison living with them. Everyone worries about what could happen to them, since Mr. Berry was killed and nothing is being done about it.

Chapter 3

Racism 4: As soon as the children think they have gotten revenge on the racist white people, they must give up their happiness and be afraid again, because they think their revenge is going to get them killed. The whole family, who laughed so readily at the bus in the ditch, is forced to be afraid for the rest of the night. They have no idea whether the "night men" will come for them or not. The simply have to wait and hope they can defend themselves.

Chapter 4

Racism 5: Though the black community all agree that the Wallaces are racist and that no one should go there, let alone shop there, people like Mr. Turner have no choice, because they have no money. He can get credit at the Wallace store, but he can't get it anywhere else. He is supporting racism because there is nothing else he can do.

Chapter 5

Racism 6: Cassie is overwhelmed by the racism she experiences in just one day at the market. First, her brother and T.J. submit to waiting and waiting as white people are served first in a store. When she tries to complain, she is yelled at or laughed at. Then, she has to apologize repeatedly to a white girl, humiliating herself in public. Not even her strong-willed, proud family can prevent these things from happening, and this hurts Cassie deeply.

Chapter 6

Racism 7: Racism requires that every black person in their town must live in fear. Hammer tries to avoid this, expecting to be treated as an equal to the white people around him, but everyone is worried that he will get himself into trouble. He wants to spend his life fighting racism violently, but he does not think about what might happen to him because of his angry protests and jokes on white people. Mama worries that he will get himself killed or bring violence on the family.

Chapter 7

Racism 8: When Jeremy tries to overcome the racism of his family, the Logans are uncomfortable and unsure of what to do. Finally, though, they accept that he is only trying to be nice. Stacey ignores T.J. when T.J. tries to turn him against Jeremy. Papa tries to protect Jeremy by sending him home before his parents miss him. However, Papa does not believe white and black people could ever really be friends.

Chapter 8

Racism 9: Cassie can't believe that Lillian Jean's racism runs so deep that she believes Cassie could be happy being her "little colored friend." Cassie can't understand how Lillian could think that was real friendship. Lillian expects Cassie to actually want to be her little slave.

Chapter 11

Racism 10: The white people of the town cannot imagine that a white boy could have beaten the shopkeeper and his wife the way R.W. and Melvin did. They are so sure T.J. must be to blame that they want to kill him right in front of their house. They do not care who is guilty, in fact, as is shown by the way they beat up T.J.'s family, including his younger brothers and sisters. They simply want to punish some black people, and they do so, because no one dares to stop them, and most people don't want to stop them.

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