Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Interconnecting Pasts


Taylor presents Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, a gripping children’s novel that exposes the harsh realities of a racist stricken society amidst the Great Depression.  Taylor utilizes events of her own family in the backdrop of a fictionalized account of similar racist actions during this time.  By connecting all three eras of oppression to the black community, it is hard to believe that this would account as a children’s novel.  Nevertheless, we, as subjective observers, are forced to accept that it is a children’s novel meant to implant the tiny seed that may grow in the young minds and flourish to a generation without oppressive behaviors.

The children in the story are exposed to stories of how Mr. Mildred’s family is considered “breed stock.”  “Breed stock” was the term used to describe slaves who were used to breed physically strong children to produce better output on plantations.  In his elaboration, the children are thus exposed to how their ancestors were treated and forced to live.  Papa does not hinder Mildred’s parable, for he knows that it has importance in developing his children’s own identity.  Taylor is connecting the events of the Depression era racist state, by chaining it to the root (by exposing the Logan children to this, they are now able to conclude that the racism that they experience is far less than what it used to be; adversely, the racism they experience is in direct fall out of the end of slavery).  With burnings and lynchings, Machiavellian attempts to have land taken, being forced to shop at only one shop, owned by people who are responsible for burnings and lynchings of your own people, all of these beg the question: is it just as bad now as it was during slavery?  If people are not safe because of the color of their skin, i. e., they are in danger of being killed for merely walking down the street, then do we have a system that is less atrocious? Are these fewer atrocities more detrimental in comparison to the time of Slavery?  These are all questions that are being begged of the reader.  That is the point Taylor is trying to achieve with the novel as a whole.  The point is to begin this series of questioning all the things you are exposed to, until you get clear answers.  The connection is further presented when we are exposed to the background of Taylor, in such, that she was writing this novel during the height of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 60’s and 70’s

Merely thirty to forty years from the setting of the Logan children, we are exposed to the Civil Rights movement.  With the same racist and oppressive actions being enacted in the South (and some North), many in the black community began to voice their retort to the maddening system that was in place.  For them, enough was enough.  Taylor, being a part of this movement, has thus given us a novel which shows the simple fact: Racism and slave like tendencies have been prevalent well after the Civil War and it continues even to this day, as I, The Wolf, write this to you.

Overall, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is one of the few children’s novels I can actually say I was utterly intrigued by.  The depth at which you can interpret every character is great and the events that culminate most of the spice to the story of the characters  offer a frighteningly stiff reality check.  Racist and oppressive behavior is still as prevalent today, just as it was during Taylor’s period of writing this book, the era of the Logan Children, and Mildred’s ancestors…it is because of books like these, however, that we can look forward towards a future where we, humans, can no longer tolerate such behavior to any human of any race, class, or orientation.  It is because of books like these that we are gripped into the depths of our soul, where we imagine, perfectly, every bit of detail on the burned Berry men, or we are embraced by the anger and defeat when Cassie is forced to apologize for being pushed.  It is because we can successfully (about 98% max) put ourselves into these characters’ minds, that we can successfully determine the powerful impact a novel, such as this, may have on younger generations.  I only hope that it can be a step in the right direction, to break this perpetual chain of interconnected pasts,instead of the ever looming purgatory our society so seems to crave.

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