What does Mr. Barnett do to contribute to the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jim Lee Barnett is the owner of Barnett Mercantile in Strawberry, the biggest general store in town. Barnett is like so many other white men of the era: He believes African Americans are second-class citizens and that they should know their place in Deep South society. "Whose little nigger is this?" Barnett bellows after Cassie "hissed" at him. Barnett tells Stacey to

"... make sure she don't come back till yo' mammy teach her what she is."  (Chapter 5)

Barnett is a racist and a businessman who is perfectly happy to take money from Negroes but only as long as they are willing to wait quietly until all of his white customers are served first. His behavior is not unlike most of the other white men in the story--at least he does not physically manhandle Cassie like Mr. Simms--and his character is that of a Good Ol' Boy who believes in the white supremacy of the races. Later in the story, "that ole devil" Barnett becomes a sympathetic character--at least to some--after he and his wife are beaten by robbers, their injuries setting off a lynch party for T.J.