‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ is set during the Great Depression after the American Civil war. African-American communities were forced into further poverty, banks failed and businesses closed. More than 15 million Americans became unemployed. African-Americans suffered more than whites, since their jobs were often taken away from them and given to whites. The entire story is based around a girl named Cassie who is trying to grow up in an extremely racist Mississippi. She slowly understands why land is so important to her family as well as standing up for your rights.
She is slowly revealed to a very racist world, and see’s many unjust acts towards black people. Firstly, the Logan children go to Great Faith which is a few miles away from their house. The school has no bus so the children must walk and this takes them one hour. On their way the white school’s bus always drives past and the Logan children must scramble up onto the bank as not to get run over. The white children on the bus laugh and make comments towards the children on the road. What’s more the Logan children’s clothes become dirty with red dust and it goes into their eyes and noses.
Secondly, Jefferson Davis County School is the white children’s school and is very grand compared to Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School. Jefferson Davis has two school buses and a wide sports field. It is a “long white wooden building “. In addition it has more classes and more students. In Great Faith there are no school buses. Great Faith consists of “four weather-beaten wooden houses on stilts of brick, 320 students, seven teachers, a principle, a caretaker, and the caretaker’s cow. ” There is also a “small one-room church”.
Thirdly, on the first day of school, the children had been given books; this was a privilege for them because some of them had never even held a book before. But these books had been passed down from white schools for 10 years and so were in very poor conditions. Stamped on the inside cover of the book was a chart. This chart read out 10 years of who it was given to, what year and the condition of the book. The first four years were excellent, and then the next three years were good, followed by average, poor and finally very poor.
There is a column on the chart for the race of the student and all the way through it is white until it gets to “very poor” where it turns to “nigra”. As you can see the black schools were given handy-me-downs from white schools, and all of them were in poor condition. Furthermore, Mr. Morrison was working on the railroad and got into a fight with some white men. He beat them up “pretty bad”. So he got fired but they didn’t. This is rather unfair because the white men were also in the fight and should have been sacked too. Or all of them should have been allowed to keep their jobs.
John Henry Berry, Beacon and Samuel Berry were burned alive outside their own house. This was due to the accusation of John Henry flirting with a white woman named Sallie Ann. This was in fact a false allegation. John Henry died whilst Beacon and Samuel Berry are recovering from extremely bad burns. In the book it describes Mr Berry; “The face has no nose and the head no hair; the skin was scarred, burned, and the lips were wizened black, like charcoal. ” As you can see in this description they were burned very badly and the Wallace’s laughed about it.
The white men think it as funny and do not really think of them as people, more as animals. Sam Tatum was “tarred and feathered” because Mr Tatum told Mr Barnett that he didn’t give him all the groceries he asked and paid for. Mr Barnett said he did add all the things that were on the list, and when Mr Tatum asked if he could see the list Mr Barnett asked him if he was calling him a liar. Mr Tatum said, “Yessuh, I guess I is! ” In those times a black man was not allowed to call a white man a liar and so Mr Tatum broke this. But of course tar is awfully hard to take off and when you do take it off it will peel your skin too.