Themes and Meanings
As a sequel to the Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), Let the Circle Be Unbroken shows the work of a careful craftswoman mastering the art form of the African American story in fiction. With vividness, persuasion, and wit, Taylor demonstrates that pride, independence, and determination can sustain a family against segregation and economic disaster. Through Cassie, her lead character, Taylor wants younger Americans to understand the level of discrimination, disfranchisement, and hard times that two earlier generations fought under segregation.
High on Taylor’s list of concerns is what she sees as an unjust judicial system designed for whites only and supported by a vicious vigilantism against which African Americans are defenseless. The child T. J., for example, is found guilty of murder only because of the color of his skin; his friends, Stacey and Moe, are arrested and detained only because they are black; Dube Cross, an impoverished sharecropper, is singled out in a racially mixed union action for severe punishment because he is a “nigger.” Additionally, African Americans who attempt to register to vote can still be lynched or lose their property. R. W. and Melvin Simms are allowed to bear witness against a black friend for a crime that they themselves committed, Mrs. Barnett does not have to see the color of a criminal to know that he is black, and an attorney cannot prevail in a Mississippi court of law defending a black person against whites. All whites are not set against African Americans, however; Jamison gives the Logans sound advice, and white sharecroppers join with African Americans to fight the injustice of big planters.
(The entire section is 698 words.)