At the beginning of Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (chapters 1-2) we are introduced to the main characters. The protagonist, and African American girl named,Cassie, is walking to school with her siblings and their friends. They learn of a neighbor of theirs whose house has been burned down by a white lynchmob. Cassie is terrified. T.J., a friend, goes on to regale the others about his daring exploits when he entered a whites only dance room.
When they arrive at school they find that they are to receive new readers in their 4th grade class. Cassie and her brother are disappointed because the 'new' books are only old hand-me-downs from the white school. Little Man gets in trouble when he refuses to take the book as it lists the race of each previous owner, and his has nigra written in it. Their mother rectifies the problem by pasting a blank page over it.
The second chapter has Cassie's father returning from his work on the railroad. He is back only for a short time and with him is a man named, Mr. Morrison who has lost his job on the railroad because he fought with some white workers. At church the next day the children learn the horrible truth about Berry's death (the house that burned down). Accused of flirting with a white woman, some white men had killed him and burned his store. The children are warned not to go into the Wallace store ever. Cassie rightly figures that Mr. Morrison (who stands well over 6 feet tall) is there to protect the family while her Papa is away at work.