General life for the Logan family is very hard at times. Not only do they have to make their living in a racist society, but also they have to battle greedy white landowners for their own land. Though slavery had been abolished around the 1860s’ ‘seventy years had passed… ‘ (Slavery abolished at different times in different states) the white community still thought of the Blacks as inferior and unacceptable to them. Throughout the play, we see harsh examples of discrimination, not because they have done something wrong, but merely because of the seemingly inevitable fascists.
Big Ma talks of Africa and how slaves were bought from Africa to work for the colonies. She goes to houses to care for people; with the herbal cures she has knowledge of from Africa. We see our first example of racism when Big Ma goes the Berrys’ house to help when they have been severely burnt, resulting finally in the death of one of the Berrys’. This is just one of a whole range of violent racism. According to white people, ‘… black people weren’t really people like white people were, so slavery was all right.
‘ The whites think it is all right to treat the Blacks with such callousness to keep them in line and doing what the whites would call correct. There is a great religious link in the Logan family life and this teaches them morals to be more honest. For example when Stacey goes to the Walace store to fight T. J. , he tells Mama as it is on his conscience. The white people believe themselves to be religious in bringing the slaves to America so the Blacks could learn Christianity and be a ‘better’ race. ‘They also said slavery was good for us as it taught is to be good Christians – like the white people.
‘ Mama tells us of what she thinks the real excuse for bringing them over from Africa and teaching Christianity, ‘… they did not teach us Christianity to save our souls, but to teach us obedience. ‘ This appears to be the case in the play as the whites punish various people in the black society for no real reason e. g. Mr Tantum was tarred and feathered for no reason but the whites thought he was ‘getting out of line. ‘ The whites cannot accept that legally the Blacks are equal to them and the importance of the background of this prejudice is very significant.
The cruel ways of the times when slavery was prominent still occour but the law seems to turn a blind eye to the situation. The Logans’ face the possibility of being hanged or maimed by the white landowners trying to get their land. The Logans’ are forced to pay more taxes on their land to Mr. Granger (a main plantation owner) in attempt for him to get their land. The land was originally Mr. Grangers’ and was sold for a very low price for tax money. In raising the payments, Mr. Granger expects the Logan family not to be able to pay for the land and will have to sell some of it and then Mr.
Granger can buy it back. The Logans’ face hardship and racism because there is always the threat of night men being sent to retrieve the land. The Logans’ live in fear because of this and is indeed why Papa takes Mr. Morrison to work on the land. Cassie does not realise the importance of the Logan Land at the beginning of the play, but by the end this changes as she has seen some examples of the harsh reality of life in Mississippi. She is not only crying for ‘T. J and the land’, she cries for freedom and equality too.
The general life style of the Logan family is better than that of most average families of the black community in the 1930s. The Logan family are extremely fortunate to own their own land (which Papa simply calls ‘Logan Land’) as most of the other Blacks have to work on white land as sharecroppers, only being able to afford the bare minimum and few necessities (which they would have thought to have been a luxury) such as shoes or even books at school. The average black families who were on the Granger sharecrop land were in a constant cycle of debt.
In comparison to the other black families in the area, the quality of the Logan life is much better than that of most of the local Blacks in the book. For example the Logans have a smart best dress outfit whereas the Avery children are not as smartly dressed as they cannot afford to buy new clothes when they grow out of them. On the first day of school the Logan children wear their best clothes, but T. J. and Claude do not have shoes to go with their Sunday best clothing and it was ‘… patched and worn, hung loosely upon their frail frames’.