Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is the second in a series of semiautobiographical novels in which Mildred D. Taylor portrays the hardships and courage of African Americans in the South. At the time of its publication in 1976, the book was one of the few novels depicting minority experiences for young readers; it became a best-seller and is widely accepted as a classic. Taylor was only the second African American writer to be honored with the Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. In her acceptance speech in 1977, Taylor dedicated the award to her father. She attributed her inspiration to him and to memories of her childhood trips to Mississippi.
The joys and pains of these years of her life gave rise to the ambition to write a series of novels about a family in rural Mississippi. The first, Song of the Trees, a short, illustrated book for children, appeared in 1975. Subsequent works in the series include Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981) and Mississippi Bridge (1990). A novel not about the Logan family, The Friendship (1987), is also set in the South in the 1930’s; it focuses on the dynamics of a relationship between an elderly black man and a white shopkeeper. A novella, The Gold Cadillac (1987), recounts an Ohio family’s visit to Mississippi in an expensive 1950’s car and explores the hostility provoked by this symbol of affluence.