With the historical setting of Mildred Taylor's novel as the Jim Crow South of the 1930s, there are incidents in the lives of the Logans that cause great fear in their hearts. In Chapter 3, for instance, after Mr. Avery arrives at the Logan's house, there is a terror that makes its presence felt. Big Ma orders the children to bed, but Cassie sneaks into the boys' room where they all overhear Mr. Avery answer Big Ma's question as to why the men "are riding,"
"I don't rightly know....Anytime they thinks we steppin' outa our place, they feels like they gotta stop us. You know what some of 'em done to the Berrys.....It don't take but a little of nothin' to set them devilish night men off."
These "devilish night men" who ride at night are vigilantes. On another recent evening, they burned John Berry for supposedly flirting with a white woman; when two of his relatives tried to defend him, they, too, were burned.
After she is in bed, Cassie observes Big Ma coming into the room and stooping over as she looks under the bed. When the lights strikes her grandmother, Cassie can see that she has a shotgun in her arms as she sits watching out the window. Later, having heard a noise on the porch, Cassie hurries out, believing that her brothers are sneaking around to her from the front of the house. However, she instead notices "the vision of ghostly headlights" as a car turns into the Logan's drive. A white man gets out, scratches his head, then shakes it in denial. He returns to his car and waves the next one off, until each turns around in this drive. Returning to her bed, Cassie is racked with fear of another visit from these vigilantes, and she does not stop trembling until dawn.