What does Mama do to the books for her seventh-grade class in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mama covers over offensive notations in her class's texts so that her students do not have to be humiliated by seeing them everyday.

In Mama's seventh-grade's class textbooks, as there are in all the school's state-issued textbooks, there is a list pasted on the inside cover of each book showing the chronological issuance of the book; that is, to whom the book has been issued each year since its purchase. The date of issuance is listed, as well as the condition of the book at that time. The last column lists the race of the student to whom the book is issued in that particular year.

From looking at the list of issuances, it is clear that the books, while still in decent condition, are issued to white children. It is only when the books are in very poor condition that they are issued to "nigra" children. This blatant evidence of racism is demoralizing and demeaning to the children at Mama's all-black school, and to save her class from the humiliation of seeing this constant reminder of their inferior status in society, Mama takes some paper and glue and covers over the offending lists. Mama cannot change the reality of the Jim Crow South, but she can at least protect her students' feelings in this small way. Mama covers the chronological issuance lists in her children's books to spare her students from the humiliation of being reminded daily in this way of the low status they hold in society, and as a small act of protest against the way things are for Negroes in the South during the Depression years (Chapter 1).

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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