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The Mildred D. Taylor novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, tells the story of the Logan family and their fight to keep the land on which they live and work. The contested land now owned by the Logans, a poor Negro family, was once part of a larger piece of the Granger plantation during the Civil War. The present Granger heir uses his wealth and political clout in the small Mississippi town to harass the Logans, who more than once are forced to creatively find ways to pay their monthly mortgage. Roll of Thunder has many subplots, particularly dealing with teacher Mary Logan and her children, including Cassie, the narrator of the story. Injustice abounds for the black families of the region, who are constantly reminded of the white "night riders" who make terrifying visits in the middle of the night. But the Logans pledge to never give up their land, no matter the consequences.
There are three main motifs in Mildred Taylor's novel. The prevailing motif of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is that of pride in one's independence. From the example of Little Man who takes pride in his neat clothes, to the young narrator Cassie, who questions why her grandmother must sell her goods behind behind the white sellers' wagons, to Mrs. Logan who teaches the children historical reality in school and organizes the boycott of the Wallace store because the Wallaces participate in the lynching of blacks, the Logans embody the independent spirit who refuses to acquiesce to the Jim Crow society in which they live in the South in the 1930s.
Another motif is commitment to family. Although Mrs. Logan agrees with the punishment of Cassie and Little Man for refusing to use old textbooks, she will not allow her children to be condemned summarily for their behavior. While David Logan demonstrates great pride in wishing to hold onto his land, he also loves his family enough to work to maintain the farm so that they will own it, too, in the future.
In keeping with another motif, that of fairness and integrity, Jeremy Simms befriends the Logans, advising them of the attitudes of the whites while attorney Wade Jemison is supportive of the Logans' efforts to retain ownership of their property.
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