Since the rising action of a literary work consists of several actions that build to the climax of the plot, such action in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry involves the number of incidents that indicate racial conflict that exists and is increasing until there is a direct conflict involving the Logan family.
Here, then, is the rising action in Mildred Taylor's novel:
- The Logan children learn from T.J. that Mr. Berry was burned by some white men.
- In Chapter 1, the Logan children have mud splashed on them by the bus carrying white children to school, and "laughing white faces pressed against the bus windows" look down at them.
- In Chapter 2, Papa returns home with a large, strong man named Mr. Morrison. He has lost his job on the railroad because he fought and beat up two white men who started the conflict. Morrison will stay with the Logans and watch out for them while Papa returns to work.
- The story of what happened to the Berry brothers and their uncle is told. John Henry and his brother Beacon were buying gasoline in Strawberry and white men attacked them and set them on fire, supposedly because they had looked at a white woman.
- Because there are some racist white men at the Wallace store, Papa makes the children swear not to go near that place.
- While most of the community has no way of going anywhere else, they are forced to trade at the Wallace store. When there are night raids and rumors of liquor being sold to minors, Mama organizes a boycott of the store and rides to Strawberry to shop for others.
- T. J. reveals that Mrs. Logan has organized the boycott, and when Mr. Logan returns from working in the north on the railroad, he is shot; the Wallaces are roughed up by Mr. Morrison.
- The children are greatly disturbed by the "vision of ghostly headlights.
- There is more tension in Chapter 5 when Cassie and others accompany their mother to Strawberry to shop. When a white woman is helped before Cassie and the others, Cassie asserts her position in line, only to be rebuffed. Outside, she runs into Lillian Jean. When Cassie bumps into her, Lillian Jean tries to humiliate her, and succeeds when Cassie must publicly apologize.
- Mrs. Logan loses her job at the school because of the boycott.
This rising action all takes place before the climax, which is the point at which T. J. breaks into the Barnett store, having been strongly urged by some white children to do this action.