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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

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What are four incidents demonstrating prejudice and injustice in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

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The themes of prejudice and injustice run all the way through the novel, so there are numerous incidents through which the author develops those themes.

The black families’ efforts to fight injustice often lead to retribution. After Cassie’s father organizes a boycott of the Wallace’s store, her mother is fired from her job. Although “reasons” are provided, everyone understands it is because she was involved in the boycott. Similarly, the attack on her father in Vicksburg, in which his leg is broken, is also attached to his activism against the store’s owners, who are suspected as “night riders” who terrorize black people.

The children’s experiences with the schools demonstrate injustice on every level. The white school’s bus driver splashes the African American children as he drives by. The African American children must walk to school; there is no bus provided for them.

When the children engage in an act of guerrilla sabotage, they assume that their action has provoked retribution from the night riders. It turns out that in actuality, the vigilantes attacked, tarred, and feathered a black man because he insulted a white man.

One of the large issues that author Mildred Taylor tackles is land ownership, including its relationship with banking and race. The arbitrary decision of the bank to call in the Logans’ loan is obviously tied to their race and to their stance toward social justice in helping the black sharecroppers.

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There are many examples of racial prejudice and injustice in Mildred Taylor's novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I've included four examples:

THE SCHOOLS.  The differences between the two schools are based on racial and social prejudice. The all-African-American school, the Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School, is second-class in comparison with the all-white Jefferson Davis County School. Cassie's school gets worn-out books that are discarded from Jefferson Davis, and the white children are bused to school, while the black kids have to walk.

THE BERRYS.  John Henry Berry and his two nephews are deliberately set afire by a group of white "night riders." Mr. Berry dies from his injuries.

MR. MORRISON.  The Logan family friend, Mr. Morrison, relates how he was fired from his job. He got into a fight with two white men and, although they started the fight, only Morrison was fired because he was black. 

THE BUS DRIVER.  A white bus driver for the Jefferson Davis school deliberately "bears down" on several black children, who are forced to jump into a muddy ditch. The white kids on the bus taunt the black kids with shouts of "Nigger!"

These are only four examples, and they all take place in the first three chapters of the novel. Sadly, there are many more to be discovered.

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