Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry revolves around a strong message of racism, by increasing our emotions and feelings of the subject. In subtle ways the writer teaches us, without information being too heavy, about racism and its background, strongly pointing towards its wrongs. The book focuses on teaching young blacks and whites of the racist issue by involving it in the story, while making the story line interesting enough to not realise how you are gradually taught the different aspects of the subject. From this point of view, the novel successfully approaches the issue of racism as well as conquering fiction mode.
Racism originated from the slave trade, where Africans were transported to the Americas to be sold for work on farms or mines. The whites thought of these blacks as an inferior race as their level of advancement was behind that of the whites. In our book we can see how over time, this way of thinking by the whites makes little change. By 1510, Spaniards and Portuguese captured Africans in exchange for European goods, and shipped them to America where again they would be exchanged for sugar, rum tabacco and cotton.
At the time, Africa was the only part of the ‘known’ world not controlled by rulers, and their weapons were not as powerful as the Europeans and so the natives were easily captured. They would be held in barracoons built by the slave traders, many dying. Between 1500 and 1890, an estimate of over six million women, and 9 million men were captured, an equal number died before they could be exported. As the numbers grew, many whites began to feel afraid of rebellion. Strict laws were past about what the slaves could or could not do.
They were denied all their personal rights and completely belong to and had to respect their owner. Roll of Thunder shows how slavery in a milder form still took place, with the blacks practically living like slaves on the white’s land. They were even rejected the write to read or write in an attempt to avoid a revolt. Because of their exclusion from cultural mainstream, oral song and story became the black’s communication. After the War of American Independence black slavery began to alter. 4th July 1776, the Declaration of independence was made, demanding freedom from British rule.
In 1783 the British Government recognised American Independence and the Americans were to decide their own government for the 13 excolonies. The new Constitution set out to protect the rights and freedom of black men with Thomas Jefferson declaring in 1776 ‘all men are created equal’. By the early nineteenth century slavery had been abolished in most Northern states, but for most of the population, the way whites and blacks felt about each other would not be resolved. 1793 saw the Fugitive Slave Law meaning it would be illegal to shelter runaway slaves or prevent their capture.
7 years later thousands of slaves, led by Gabriel Prosser attacked Richmond. Their plan was betrayed, resulting in Prosser’s and 35 other slaves’ deaths. A similar betrayal took place in 1822 after 4 years of planning ending in 47 dead. Incidences such as these may indicate reasoning for Papa’s statement that whites must not be trusted. Betrayal of blacks by blacks can also be seen in the novel for revenge, where T. J betrays Mrs Logan to teaching authorities after failing his test. The 19th century saw the escape of an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 blacks to the free states in the North and Canada via underground rail routes.
Black’s revolts were becoming frequent. Whites were worried of losing control. In Roll of Thunder, the Grangers feelings for the Logans being their own landowners may also have had a fear of revolt. In 1807 the slave trade was successfully abolished. Most other countries were also persuaded, but some traders still continued against the law. In 1832, under a new government, hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions against slavery. This began to show that not all of the white population saw a reason for blacks to be treaded as inferior.
In the novel, Mr Jaminson and Jeremy Simms are examples of this as they treated the Logans as equal. In 1833 slaves could legally be freed, the owners getting i?? 20 million compensation. Even when the capturing of slaves had been abolished, whites still felt that the blacks were inferior. To this day, as well as in Roll of Thunder racism continues. In the mid19th century, over 90% of American blacks lived in the South, such as the book’s characters, and their freedom from slavery threatened white supremacy. This is one reason why the southern states withdrew from the USA in 1861.
Northern states saw this as a rebellion and a bloody civil war followed until 1865. A total of 178,985 blacks rushed to join forming a 10th of the Unions army. They felt honoured to be worthy of fighting for their country, perhaps hoping that the white population would also feel this. They still only received half of a white mans pay, and given the more fatigue jobs until a decision of Congress and the war department equalled their rights. Black women also joined the war. 37 thousand were killed in action. 17 black soldiers and sailors were also awarded Congressional Medals of Honour for their bravery.