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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

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In "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry", how do landowners and storekeepers exploit sharecroppers in chapters 4-5?

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Whites, who own everything, have a closed system set up that does not allow the black people much freedom of choice. Landowners make sure that any type of profit the black sharecroppers make goes directly back to them so the tenant farmer will essentially never get ahead. After mama takes the children to see Mr. Berry, they stop by a number of families where she talks about a passive boycott of the white stores because they exploit the farmers.

She explains that "For the past year now, our family has been shopping down at Vicksburg. there are a number of stores down there and we have found several that treat us well".  Mr. Turner Turner objects that it is an "overnight journey in a wagon down there and  back".

The system is thus geographically cut off as well and leaves balcks little choice.

Mr. Turner also points out to Cassie's mom that the sharecroppers are bound to a cashless economy that keeps them in perpetual debt. He says

Won't do no good [to shop in Vicksburg], I got no cash money. Mr. Montier signs for me up at the Wallace store so's that I can get my tools, my mule, my seed, my fertilizer, my food, and what few clothes I need to keep my children from runnin' around around plumb naked. When cotton pickin' time comes, he sells my cotton, takes half of it, pays my debt up at that store and my interest for they credit, then charges me ten to fifteen percent more as 'risk' money for signin' for me in the first place. This year I earned me near two hundred dollars after Mr. Montier took his half of the crop money, but I ain't seen a penny of it. In fact I manages to come out even without owin' that man nothin', I figures I've had a good year.

Mr. Turner's answer to mama's suggestion illustrates the powerless position of the sharecroppers.

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