Chapter 12 Summary
Cassie, Christopher John, and Little Man arrive home to find their parents and Big Ma awake. Papa is ready to whip them all. He launches into a lecture about sneaking off into the night, but Christopher John interrupts: “But, Papa, they h-hurt [T.J.’s brother] Claude!”
When Papa hears what is happening at T.J.’s house, he grabs his shotgun and runs out to save T.J. and Stacey. Mr. Morrison joins him, carrying his own gun. Mama begs Papa not to use violence, and Papa stops to think for a moment. He says he will do whatever he has to do.
Mama and Big Ma sit up waiting. Recognizing how pointless it would be to try to force the kids to sleep, they let Cassie and the little boys stay up, too. A thunderstorm is starting, and suddenly Mama smells smoke. The cotton crop is on fire.
Mama and Big Ma gather buckets, burlap sacks, and shovels. They set out to fight the fire and tell the kids to wait inside the house. An hour later, Jeremy appears. He says everyone is out fighting the fire, including his older brothers and several of the other men who were attempting to lynch T.J. Cassie is relieved to hear that Papa and Stacey are safe.
When the fire is out, Cassie and Little Man run to watch as the adults put out the last embers. Cassie sees white and black people working side by side, all doing their best to prevent the flames from making it to the forest and eventually wreaking destruction on all the crops in the area.
Soon Mama, Big Ma, and Stacey come home. Mama says that Papa and Mr. Morrison did not have to fight the men who attacked T.J. Later Mr. Jamison comes and tells Papa to lie low so nobody questions how the fire got started in the Logans' cotton fields. Cassie realizes that Papa set the fire on purpose to stop the lynching without having to fight.
Mr. Jamison also says that the owner of the store in Strawberry has died and that T.J. is “all right…for now.” After Mr. Jamison leaves, Papa admits that T.J. will probably be executed. Cassie protests that the Simmses are really to blame, but both she and Stacey understand that T.J.’s trial will be unfair and that the outcome is almost certain. Stacey runs off to grieve alone. Cassie goes to bed and cries herself to sleep.