What does Papa demand the children swear to?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Papa makes the children swear that they will not go near the Wallace store.

In Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, set in rural Mississippi in 1933, racial inequities and violations are flagrant. That even the children are subjected to gratuitous insults is evinced in the opening chapter as the Logan children are dirtied by a speeding white school bus that splatters them when it races past.

But, much worse is a tale told at church in Chapter 2 about the burning of John Henry Berry, who had the bad luck of going to a store in a town called Strawberry where he bought gas. Sadly for him, there were some drunken white men who have been told by a woman named Sallie Ann that John Henry "flirted with her." Frightened, John Henry and his brother left without buying any gas and drove as quickly as they could, but the other men followed them to their uncle's house where they had to pull in because they not did have enough gas to make it home. However, the white men pursued them and rushed in, dragging John Henry and his brother Beacon outside; the uncle ran out to help them but all three were set on fire.

After Papa hears this horrific story, along with hearing about some lynchings, he forbids the children to go near the white-owned Wallace store. Furthermore, he even makes the children swear that they will not go near this store:

"We don't want y'all going to that place. Children going there are gonna get themselves in a whole lot of trouble one day. There's drinking up there and I don't like it--and I don't like them Wallaces either. If I ever find out y'all been up there, for any reason, I'm gonna wear y'all out. Y'all hear me?"

Christopher-John replies "Yessir, Papa," and the others join in.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial