Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a psychologically realistic, historically accurate picture of African American family life in rural Mississippi. It is also an excellent initiation novel about a young girl growing up to learn about the values and dangers of her Depression-era world.
The Logan family lives in Spokane County, Mississippi, on four hundred acres of land that Cassie Logan’s grandfather, a former slave, purchased years before. Harlan Granger, whose family originally owned the Logan property and who owns all the farms around it (now sharecropped by poorer black families), wants the Logan parcel back, and it is a struggle for the Logan family to hold onto their land. The novel is set in rural Mississippi in the early 1930’s, and conditions for African Americans could hardly be worse. Just how bad they are, Cassie Logan soon learns.
Cassie, who narrates the novel, is a smart, curious girl who loves her parents, especially her father, who is off working in Louisiana. When Papa Logan returns home in chapter 2, he is accompanied by Mr. Morrison, who has been fired from his railroad job for fighting with whites and whom Papa is bringing home to help protect the family against a recent wave of vigilante terrorism; distant neighbors have just been visited by the dreaded night riders, and one man has already died of burns.
Several plot lines grow out of this opening situation. Papa tells the children to stay away from...
(The entire section is 692 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Based to a large extent on Mildred D. Taylor’s experience as a child visiting relatives in Mississippi, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry depicts the many dimensions of the racism of the Deep South in the 1930’s. The Logan family is a strong, close-knit black family struggling to keep their four hundred acres of land during the hard times of the Depression. Against the forces of national economic catastrophe and intense social prejudice, they fight for the survival of their nuclear family, for freedom from racially motivated attacks, and for better educations and adequate livelihoods.
In the first of twelve chapters that encompass a year in the family’s life and in the community’s turmoil, Cassie Logan and her brothers, in their Sunday best, take the several-mile walk to The Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School, the large segregated school where black children begin their new school year in October after the cotton picking is finished. Cassie’s education in the harsh realities of the bigotry of her society begins. The open animosity of whites; the pervasive institutionalized racism in schools, commerce, and laws; and the nighttime violence of vicious vigilante gangs form the cultural context for her growth from innocence to experience. In the next few months of watching, listening, feeling, and thinking, she becomes aware for the first time of the importance that white people give to skin color, and she gradually recognizes how...
(The entire section is 654 words.)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry's depiction of social interactions and relationships in the 1930s South remains relevant today. The novel dramatizes the consequences of historical realities, such as slavery, through the oral history recounted by the older characters. Despite its depiction of hardships and reversals, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry offers a comforting view of social continuity. Overall, the novel focuses on the uplifting aspects of life: challenge, family solidarity, love, courage, pride, and determination. Although the narrator and several of the principal characters are quite young, their needs are strikingly similar to those of young adults. They demonstrate a need and desire for acceptance, and they are curious and speculative about the world around them.
(The entire section is 118 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
It is the first day of school, and Cassie Logan is feeling grumpy. She dislikes the uncomfortable Sunday clothes her mother is making her wear, and she hates the thought of spending a beautiful October day indoors. Cassie grumbles at her youngest brother, six-year-old Little Man, because he walks slowly to keep his clothes neat. She comes close to fighting with her older brother, twelve-year-old Stacey, who is in a sour mood because he knows his mother will be his teacher this year. Cassie’s middle brother, seven-year-old Christopher John, remains silent but seems nervous as he listens to his siblings’ arguments.
As the children walk to school, Cassie thinks about her father and her family’s farm. The Logans grow cotton, but they cannot earn enough from their crop to pay their mortgage. Because of this, Cassie’s father is away working on the railroad to earn more money. Cassie misses her father and does not understand why the adults in her family are willing to split up just to keep their land.
On the road, the Logan kids meet up with their friends T.J. and Claude Avery. T.J. brags that he knows more than the Logan kids do, then he relates a story about a sickening incident the night before. A group of black men were badly burned because white men lit them on fire.
The children’s conversation is interrupted by the white school bus. The white driver likes to speed up and splash mud on black kids. The Averys, Cassie, and the two older Logan boys jump out of the way in time. Little Man, who has never been to school before and does not know what to expect, gets covered in mud.
Little Man is still dripping when the kids meet Jeremy, a white boy who likes them and wants to be friends. Cassie thinks it is strange that Jeremy walks with them even though the other white kids beat him up for spending time with black kids. The kids act awkward and uncomfortable until Jeremy leaves them to go into the white school building.
The Logans walk on to the rundown black school. Most of their fellow students, whose families do not own land, are even poorer than the Logans. When the students in Cassie’s classroom learn that they will have books this year, everyone gasps in...
(The entire section is 665 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
The Logan family is picking cotton when Cassie, who has climbed a pole to reach the cotton puffs on the plants, sees her father approaching with another man. She and the other children run out to meet them. After the kids greet their father, he introduces them to his companion, Mr. Morrison, who is frighteningly large and covered with scars.
Inside the house, Papa announces that he can only stay until the following evening. Cassie argues, but Papa says he will lose his job if he is not back at work by Monday morning. He goes on to announce that Mr. Morrison will stay and work on the Logan farm in exchange for food, board, and a little cash. The children are shocked, but Mama merely welcomes Mr. Morrison to her home.
Mr. Morrison confesses to Mama that he was fired from the railroad for beating two men. Mama asks whose fault the fight was, and Mr. Morrison says it was theirs but that the other men did not get fired because they were white. Mama thanks him for his honesty and does not retract her welcome. She says she will be glad to have Mr. Morrison nearby, “especially now.”
Mama does not explain what she means by “especially now,” but Cassie thinks Papa wants Mr. Morrison to protect the family because of the burnings the children heard about in the morning. Little Man says the burnings have nothing to do with it, and Stacey says Cassie should stop worrying. Only Christopher John refuses to argue. He only says he wants their papa to stay home forever.
The next morning at church, the Logans hear that John Henry Berry, one of the burning victims, has died. The Logan children’s grandmother, Big Ma, says John Henry was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her friend Mrs. Lanier disagrees. Mrs. Lanier tells that John Henry was accused of flirting with a white woman. For this crime, a group of white men chased him, rammed his car, and lit him on fire along with two male relatives who tried to defend him.
As Cassie and her brothers listen, several adults comment that violence by white people against black people is growing worse. Everyone seems to agree that nothing can be done about the problem; the police refuse to help black victims and even go as far as...
(The entire section is 495 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
By the end of October, the rainy season brings trouble for Cassie and her brothers. The driver of the white school bus torments them daily, splashing them and forcing them to jump across a ditch to avoid getting hit. Little Man, who loves to look clean and neat, is affected the most. He does not understand why the driver refuses to slow down for them, and he thinks it is unfair that the county refuses to pay for a school bus for black children.
One day the white bus driver bears down on the kids, forcing them to jump the ditch at one of its widest points. None of the kids makes it across. They land chest-deep in muddy water as the white kids inside the bus shout, “Nigger! Nigger! Mud eater!” The Logan kids are so upset that they refuse to speak to their white friend, Jeremy, although they all know he never rides the bus. Stacey promises Little Man that the white bus will never torment them again.
At lunch, Stacey gathers the Logan kids together, and the four of them dig a huge hole, which they fill with muddy water to make it look like the road has washed out. Rain is pouring down, and by the time school is over, the kids’ ditch has expanded enormously. Cassie and her brothers hide themselves as the bus drives into their puddle and lurches to a stop in the hole. The bus's axle breaks, and all the white kids have to walk home. Most of the white kids get soaked in muddy water, just as the Logan kids got soaked in the morning. When the Logan family hears that the school bus will be out of commission for weeks, even Mama and Big Ma are happy.
The victory with the school bus leaves Cassie and her brothers feeling great. As they do their homework that evening, they keep collapsing in laughter. Eventually their mother separates them, but it seems that nothing can dim their good mood—until T.J.’s father arrives.
Refusing to sit down, Mr. Avery addresses Mama and Big Ma: “They’s ridin’ tonight.” When she hears this, Mama sends the children to bed. Cassie sneaks into the boys’ room, and the kids eavesdrop on the adults’ conversation. They learn that white vigilantes are again planning to attack black citizens who have, in the whites' view, stepped out of the lowly place where they belong. When Big Ma insists...
(The entire section is 564 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Cassie and her brothers make a pact never to tell anyone about the school bus incident. All of them, especially Cassie, remain terrified that they will be the target of revenge. Mama and Big Ma worry about the kids' subdued behavior.
A week after the incident, the kids get relief from T.J. Avery, who tells them about a black man who was tarred and feathered for calling a white man a liar. Cassie and her brothers realize that the victim of this attack was the real target on the night the line of cars passed their house; nobody knows about the Logan kids' revenge on the bus. They begin to feel safer.
The Logan kids catch T.J. rummaging through Mama’s possessions, but he claims he has done nothing wrong. Later they learn he stole the answers to a history test. He cheats on the test and pins the blame on Stacey. Mama whips Stacey in front of the whole class.
After school that day, T.J. runs to the Wallace store, thinking he will be safe there. Stacey goes after him, and Cassie and the younger boys follow. Mr. Wallace and the other white men at the store ridicule them, but Cassie and her brothers barely notice; they are busy pursuing T.J. Stacey catches T.J. and begins hitting him.
Before the fight is over, Mr. Morrison arrives and orders the four Logan kids to come away. He tells them they should not have gone to the Wallace store but that he will leave it up to them to decide whether to tell their mother. Stacey thinks it over and decides to confess.
When the kids and Mr. Morrison arrive home, they see a large, silver car in the driveway. It belongs to Harlan Granger, the white man who owns almost all the land in the area. He wants to buy the Logan land but Big Ma refuses to sell it. Big Ma tells the kids all about her husband, who struggled for years to buy the land the Logans now own. Big Ma explains that their land used to belong to the Grangers, who lost it after the Civil War. Harlan Granger has bought back all of his family's lost land except the two hundred acres that belong to the Logans. Granger resents the fact that Big Ma refuses to sell.
Stacey confesses to Mama that he went to the Wallace store, and she guesses...
(The entire section is 645 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Big Ma wakes Cassie and Stacey, telling them they are coming with her to the nearby town of Strawberry. T.J. is riding along, too. Cassie, who has never been to Strawberry before, is excited until she realizes the town is small and dusty—not the bustling city she expects.
At the market in Strawberry, Big Ma sets up her wagon to sell farm produce. Cassie is confused when Big Ma chooses a spot far from the market’s entrance. Big Ma explains that the wagons by the entrance all belong to white people. Cassie does not understand why Big Ma cannot sell produce alongside whites.
After the market winds down, Big Ma goes to see Mr. Jamison, a white lawyer. Cassie likes him because, unlike most white men, he treats Mama and Big Ma with respect. Big Ma tells the kids to wait for her on the sidewalk but T.J. convinces the others to go to the store with him instead.
At the store, T.J. shows Cassie and Stacey a pearl-handled pistol he wants. He says nobody would ever try to hurt him if he had a gun like that. Stacey gets nervous and threatens to leave.
The shopkeeper begins waiting on T.J. but stops when a white customer walks in. The shopkeeper helps a series of white customers, one after the other, and eventually Cassie thinks he must have forgotten about T.J. She speaks up, pointing out that T.J. was there first. The shop owner yells and swears at Cassie. When Cassie argues her point, the shop owner kicks her out. He tells Stacey that Cassie cannot come back “till yo’ mammy teach her what she is.”
Stacey takes Cassie outside, where she bumps into Lillian Jean Simms, the older sister of her white friend, Jeremy. Lillian Jean demands that Cassie apologize, and Cassie does. Then Lillian Jean orders Cassie to get down in the street. Cassie refuses. This makes Lillian Jean furious. Mr. Simms, the father of Jeremy and Lillian Jean, arrives and demands that Cassie obey his daughter. Jeremy begins to speak up for Cassie, but he is silenced with a single look.
When Cassie still refuses to back down, Mr. Simms twists her arm and pushes her into the street. Frightened, Cassie tries to scramble away, and someone grabs her. Cassie struggles until she realizes the person doing the grabbing is Big Ma, back from the lawyer’s office. Cassie expects Big Ma to make Mr. Simms stop bothering her.
Mr. Simms tells Big Ma to make Cassie apologize. Big Ma protests, saying Cassie is just...
(The entire section is 456 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Home from Strawberry, Cassie and Stacey work together to unhitch the mule. Stacey tells Cassie that Big Ma is not at fault for what happened in Strawberry, but Cassie disagrees.
When the kids open the barn doors, they see a big, silver car that looks like Harlan Granger’s Packard. They run inside and find Uncle Hammer, their father’s older brother. After embracing him, they learn the surprising news that the car belongs to him.
Uncle Hammer asks about Strawberry. Although Big Ma tries to distract her, Cassie tells all about her bad day. Uncle Hammer is amused that Cassie stood up to the shop owner but grows furious when he hears that a grown man twisted her arm and pushed her into the street. Hammer storms out and gets into his car, ignoring the protests of Mama and Big Ma. Just before Hammer leaves, Mr. Morrison jumps into the passenger seat.
When Cassie voices her hope that Mr. Simms will get hurt, Mama sends her to bed. Later Mama comes in and says that Big Ma was only trying to protect Cassie when she made Cassie apologize. Mama explains that people like the Simmses believe white people are better than black people. Cassie protests that they are not, and Mama agrees, going on to say that nobody is better than anyone else. She refuses to tell Cassie what will happen if Uncle Hammer attacks Mr. Simms, but she promises that Mr. Morrison will bring Uncle Hammer back safely.
The next morning, Cassie learns that Uncle Hammer will take the family to church in his new car. Among themselves, the kids speculate about whether Uncle Hammer beat up Mr. Simms. The younger three think so, but Stacey says nothing happened. If it had, he explains, Uncle Hammer would have been killed.
At church, Cassie's community marvels at Hammer’s new car. After the service, the family takes a ride. Uncle Hammer drives the family all around the country. On the way home, Hammer drives onto a one-lane bridge that already has a truck on it. The truck’s driver backs up, thinking the car belongs to Harlan Granger. When Hammer passes the truck, the white driver tips his hat, then looks shocked when he realizes he just made a gesture of respect to a black man. Uncle Hammer is pleased about this trick, but Mama tells him he should not have done it. “One day we’ll pay,” she says.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Uncle Hammer has given Stacey a new coat, but it is too big. One day Mama asks Stacey to bring it to her so she can hem it. Reluctantly, Stacey admits that he gave the coat to T.J. because T.J. said it made Stacey look like a fat preacher. Mama orders Stacey to go get the coat back, but Hammer stops her, saying, “If Stacey’s not smart enough to hold on to a good coat, he don’t deserve it.”
Papa comes home for Christmas, and the family settles down to celebrate and tell old stories. Papa and Hammer reminisce about stealing watermelons in childhood, and Mama and Big Ma tell fun stories of their own. Mr. Morrison tells a different kind of story, about one Christmas when night men came and burned down his house. Mama objects that the children are too young to hear this, but Papa says, “These are things they need to hear, baby. It’s their history.” The children listen as Mr. Morrison tells how his mother threw him out of harm's way but ended up getting killed along with the rest of his family.
The Logan kids are excited to receive books as well as new clothes for Christmas. The Avery family joins them after church, and everyone eats, talks, and laughs together until they hear someone knocking.
Stacey opens the door to see Jeremy Simms, the Logan kids’ white friend, who gives him a bag of nuts and a hand-carved music pipe. After Jeremy leaves, Papa explains that friendship between blacks and whites does not mean much because it is not equal. He says Jeremy will turn against Stacey someday when the boys are both adults. Stacey does not agree, but Papa says that in Mississippi it is too dangerous to try to find out.
The white lawyer, Mr. Jamison, comes to see Big Ma the day after Christmas. The kids listen as Big Ma signs over the title for the Logan land to Papa and Uncle Hammer. Big Ma says she wants to make sure her sons own the land legally so that Harlan Granger cannot try to take the land away on a technicality when she dies.
When this business is over, Cassie thinks Mr. Jamison will leave, but he brings up the boycott Mama wants to start against the Wallace store. Mr. Jamison advises the Logans against using their land as collateral to back credit for black sharecropping families at the store in Vicksburg. He says bluntly that they will lose their land if they do this. Then he surprises everyone by offering to back the credit himself. The adults discuss the implications...
(The entire section is 548 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Cassie is still burning from the insult she received at the hands of Lillian Jean Simms in Strawberry. One day on the road, Cassie chases after Lillian Jean, apologizes, and pretends to think black people really are inferior to white people. This delights Lillian Jean but dismays Jeremy and Cassie’s brothers, who do not know that Cassie has a plan.
Cassie confides in Papa about her anger at Lillian Jean. Papa tells Cassie that she is quick to anger like his brother, and he explains that it is not worth it to pursue revenge if the consequences of revenge are too great. He says that Cassie’s self-respect is worth more than respect from anyone else—and that she cannot take revenge if it will cause Mr. Simms to make trouble for the whole family. Cassie promises that Mr. Simms will never hear about what she is going to do.
For a month, Cassie acts like Lillian Jean’s personal servant. Lillian Jean grows more and more fond of Cassie, eventually telling Cassie all her secrets. One day Cassie leads Lillian Jean into the woods, beats her up, and forces her to apologize for the event in Strawberry. Then Cassie threatens to reveal all of Lillian Jean’s secrets if the older girl ever admits that Cassie attacked her.
The next day at school, Kaleb Wallace and Harlan Granger, who both belong to the school board, come to inspect Mama's classroom. They have obviously been tipped off that Mama has pasted over the racist charts the county uses to record the skin color of the students using the books. They also accuse Mama of teaching ideas that are not in the county’s books. They fire Mama from her teaching job. Mama knows that this is revenge for her support of the boycott on the Wallace store. She is devastated.
A few days later, the Logan kids learn that T.J., angry about failing one of Mama's tests, tipped Mr. Wallace off about the fact that Mama covered up the racist charts in the school books. T.J. tries to wiggle out of the blame, but he slips up and makes it clear that he did talk to the Wallaces about Mama. Stacey does not beat T.J. up; he says T.J. has earned worse treatment than a beating. After that, all the Logan kids—even the normally friendly Christopher John—refuse to be T.J.’s friend anymore. When the Logans walk away, T.J. screams after them that he has other friends, better friends, friends who are white.
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
It is spring, and Cassie is looking forward to the end of the school year. Jeremy complains that he will miss the Logans every day as he walks to his school, which stays in session longer. He asks if he can visit the Logans over the summer, but Stacey says Papa would not like that. Cassie does not understand how Jeremy can be lonely with so many siblings. Jeremy says he does not like his older brothers and sister. His brothers have pretended to befriend T.J., but Jeremy says they call T.J. names behind his back.
It is nearly time for Papa to return to his job on the railroad. Cassie begs him not to go, but he says he needs the income to pay the mortgage and taxes on their land. As they argue, Papa’s friends Mr. Avery and Mr. Lanier come to sit with them. Mr. Avery says he cannot continue supporting the boycott on the Wallace store. He reports that Harlan Granger is threatening to cut his sharecroppers’ incomes from fifty percent to forty percent of the profits from their crops. Mr. Granger also says he will evict boycotters and have them arrested for debt.
After Mr. Avery and Mr. Lanier leave, Stacey complains that they are cowardly to back out of the boycott so easily. Papa grabs Stacey and tells him the men have every right to protect their families. Cassie asks if the Logans will back out too, and Papa says they will not. He compares the Logan family to a small but strong fig tree that keeps surviving even though it is surrounded by bigger trees on all sides.
That night, Cassie eavesdrops as her parents discuss the upcoming shopping trip in Vicksburg. Papa says he will still shop for anyone who wants to stay in the boycott. He also says he will take Stacey with him to Vicksburg. Mama protests, saying it is too dangerous for a thirteen-year-old boy, but Papa says Stacey is nearly a man and needs to know how to handle himself. “Mary, I want him strong…not a fool like T.J.,” Papa says.
Only seven families, including the Logans, still want to stay in the boycott. Although they know that this small loss of income cannot hurt the Wallaces, Papa and Mr. Morrison go on the shopping trip for the remaining boycotters and take Stacey with them. The evening they are supposed to arrive home, a hard rain begins to fall. The family waits late into the night for the men to return.
When the men finally arrive, Mr. Morrison is carrying Papa. Papa’s leg is broken and his head is bandaged....
(The entire section is 612 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
As soon as Papa has recovered a little from his injuries, he wants to talk to Mama about money. The Logans will have to sell livestock to keep up on their mortgage payments until they sell their cotton crop in September. Mama says the family can rely on garden produce instead of buying flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and coffee. She suggests asking Hammer for money, but Papa does not want to tell his brother about the attacks. Papa is afraid that Hammer will attack the Wallaces and cause more trouble.
The Logan kids ride along with Mr. Morrison on an errand. On the way home, Mr. Morrison spots a beat-up pickup truck and orders Cassie to get in the back of the wagon. Kaleb Wallace parks the truck across the road, blocking Mr. Morrison’s path, and threatens revenge on Mr. Morrison for hurting the other Wallace brothers. Mr. Morrison climbs down from the wagon, checks to make sure Kaleb does not have a gun, and lifts the truck out of the way.
When Mama hears about this incident, she is frightened. She wants Mr. Morrison to go away to protect himself, but Mr. Morrison says he loves the Logan family like his own. He is willing to take any risk to stay with them.
During the summer, the Logan kids sometimes spend time with Jeremy in the forest. As always, the Logan kids have trouble finding a comfortable topic of conversation with Jeremy. Jeremy wants to know how Papa is healing, but the Logans feel awkward talking about Papa because they cannot discuss how he was injured. Jeremy asks about T.J., but the Logan kids have heard that T.J. and Jeremy’s brothers are stealing, so they do not feel right talking about that either. Even the beauty of the land is a difficult subject. When Jeremy wants to show the Logan kids the view from his tree house, Stacey bluntly refuses to go onto the Simms’s property.
One afternoon Mr. Morrison comes home from Strawberry, where he went to drop off the Logans’ monthly mortgage payment, and gives Papa the news that the bank has called in the loan. They say the Logans’ credit is no longer any good. The Logans know Harlan Granger is behind this, trying to get their land, but they also know that they would not get a fair trial if they took the matter to court. Papa calls Uncle Hammer, who promises to get the money to pay off the loan.
Uncle Hammer arrives during the summer revival, the biggest social event of the year. The kids run out to meet him and...
(The entire section is 627 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Cassie wakes up in the middle of the night when she hears a tapping on the back porch. She knows Mr. Morrison is out front keeping watch for the Wallaces, as he has been every night since the attack on Papa. She does not think Mr. Morrison is responsible for the sounds she hears. She gets out of bed to investigate and finds T.J. outside. She asks what he is doing, but he does not answer. He calls out for Stacey.
Stacey opens the door to the boys’ room, and T.J. asks for help. T.J. explains that the elder Simms brothers took him to Strawberry, promising to buy him the pearl-handled pistol he coveted for so long. The store was closed when the three boys arrived, so the Simmses told T.J. they would break in and take the gun, then come back and pay for it the following Monday. Frightened but believing in his friends’ intentions, T.J. let the Simmses lift him into the store through the window. When he opened the door for them, he saw they were wearing gloves and masks. They stole the pearl-handled pistol for T.J., and they also broke open a cabinet and took out a metal box. The store owner caught them at it and fought with the Simmses, one of whom hit him over the head. Afterward, T.J. threatened to tell on the Simmses, but they beat him badly.
By the time T.J. finishes his story, it is clear he is hurt too badly to get home by himself. Stacey sneaks out to help him. Cassie, Christopher John, and Little Man insist on coming along. At T.J.’s house, the Logan kids see several cars approaching. A group of white men, including the Wallaces and the elder Simms brothers, get out. The Simms brothers—who are pretending they had nothing to do with the robbery in Strawberry—help to drag T.J. and his family out of the house. The men search T.J. and find the pearl-handled pistol. They accuse him of stealing and knocking out the store owner.
The white men want to lynch T.J., but Mr. Jamison arrives and tries to stop them. The mob, angry and violent, threatens to kill Papa and Mr. Morrison as well as T.J. Stacey tells Cassie to go home and get help. Cassie resists until Stacey promises not to intervene until Papa arrives; then she takes the younger boys and runs home.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Cassie, Christopher John, and Little Man arrive home to find their parents and Big Ma awake. Papa is ready to whip them all. He launches into a lecture about sneaking off into the night, but Christopher John interrupts: “But, Papa, they h-hurt [T.J.’s brother] Claude!”
When Papa hears what is happening at T.J.’s house, he grabs his shotgun and runs out to save T.J. and Stacey. Mr. Morrison joins him, carrying his own gun. Mama begs Papa not to use violence, and Papa stops to think for a moment. He says he will do whatever he has to do.
Mama and Big Ma sit up waiting. Recognizing how pointless it would be to try to force the kids to sleep, they let Cassie and the little boys stay up, too. A thunderstorm is starting, and suddenly Mama smells smoke. The cotton crop is on fire.
Mama and Big Ma gather buckets, burlap sacks, and shovels. They set out to fight the fire and tell the kids to wait inside the house. An hour later, Jeremy appears. He says everyone is out fighting the fire, including his older brothers and several of the other men who were attempting to lynch T.J. Cassie is relieved to hear that Papa and Stacey are safe.
When the fire is out, Cassie and Little Man run to watch as the adults put out the last embers. Cassie sees white and black people working side by side, all doing their best to prevent the flames from making it to the forest and eventually wreaking destruction on all the crops in the area.
Soon Mama, Big Ma, and Stacey come home. Mama says that Papa and Mr. Morrison did not have to fight the men who attacked T.J. Later Mr. Jamison comes and tells Papa to lie low so nobody questions how the fire got started in the Logans' cotton fields. Cassie realizes that Papa set the fire on purpose to stop the lynching without having to fight.
Mr. Jamison also says that the owner of the store in Strawberry has died and that T.J. is “all right…for now.” After Mr. Jamison leaves, Papa admits that T.J. will probably be executed. Cassie protests that the Simmses are really to blame, but both she and Stacey understand that T.J.’s trial will be unfair and that the outcome is almost certain. Stacey runs off to grieve alone. Cassie goes to bed and cries herself to sleep.
(The entire section is 419 words.)