illustration of a fire spreading through a field

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

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Chapter 3 Summary

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By the end of October, the rainy season brings trouble for Cassie and her brothers. The driver of the White school bus torments them daily, splashing them and forcing them to jump across a ditch to avoid getting hit. Little Man, who loves to look clean and neat, is affected the most. He does not understand why the driver refuses to slow down for them, and he thinks it is unfair that the county refuses to pay for a school bus for Black children.

One day the White bus driver bears down on the kids, forcing them to jump the ditch at one of its widest points. None of the kids makes it across. They land chest-deep in muddy water as the White kids inside the bus shout, “Nigger! Nigger! Mud eater!” The Logan kids are so upset that they refuse to speak to their White friend, Jeremy, although they all know he never rides the bus. Stacey promises Little Man that the White bus will never torment them again.

At lunch, Stacey gathers the Logan kids together, and the four of them dig a huge hole, which they fill with muddy water to make it look like the road has washed out. Rain is pouring down, and by the time school is over, the kids’ ditch has expanded enormously. Cassie and her brothers hide themselves as the bus drives into their puddle and lurches to a stop in the hole. The bus's axle breaks, and all the White kids have to walk home. Most of the White kids get soaked in muddy water, just as the Logan kids got soaked in the morning. When the Logan family hears that the school bus will be out of commission for weeks, even Mama and Big Ma are happy.

The victory with the school bus leaves Cassie and her brothers feeling great. As they do their homework that evening, they keep collapsing in laughter. Eventually their mother separates them, but it seems that nothing can dim their good mood—until T.J.’s father arrives.

Refusing to sit down, Mr. Avery addresses Mama and Big Ma: “They’s ridin’ tonight.” When she hears this, Mama sends the children to bed. Cassie sneaks into the boys’ room, and the kids eavesdrop on the adults’ conversation. They learn that White vigilantes are again planning to attack Black citizens who have, in the Whites' view, stepped out of the lowly place where they belong. When Big Ma insists that there must be some reason for the men to go riding tonight, Cassie thinks the reason must be the revenge on the White bus. When Mr. Avery leaves, she sneaks back to bed, convinced that she and her brothers are the White vigilantes’ target. She is only partly comforted by the presence of Big Ma, who settles into a rocking chair by Cassie’s bed with a rifle on her lap.

In the middle of the night, Cassie awakens to find Big Ma gone. Hearing a noise on the porch, Cassie goes outside and sees a line of cars approaching the house. She panics, certain the drivers are there to attack her and her brothers. Mr. Morrison sneaks toward the cars with a gun, but the cars merely use the Logans’ driveway to turn around before they drive off into the night. Sick with fear, Cassie sneaks back to bed.

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