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Mildred Taylor's novel opens with the Logan children heading to their first day of school; she doesn't take long to introduce the reader to race relations in Mississippi in 1933 when the children have to scramble up a hill to avoid being hit with water and mud when the driver of the white children's school bus deliberately drives through a puddle. Not long after, Cassie, the novel's protagonist, makes her first visit to the market in Strawberry, where she sees further evidence of the inferiority with which African-Americans are treated. The Wallaces, led by Kaleb Wallace, a local white family of questionable character, burn some black men and kill one of them. Cassie's mother leads a boycott of the Wallace's store, leading to her losing her teaching job, threats against the black sharecroppers in the area, a vicious attack on David Logan, Cassie's father, when he is returning from a trip, and ultimately the bank threatening foreclosure if the Logans don't produce instant payment of their total mortgage. Woven throughout the plot is the situation with T.J., who begins associating with the Wallaces and nearly gets himself lynched after they accuse him of a crime that they actually committed. David Logan figures out a way to save T.J. from lynching, but he will be arrested and being a black male accused by a white family, his future does not look good.
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