Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Mama Character Analysis

Mama, whose name is Mary Logan, is a schoolteacher who believes that the status quo of racism shouldn’t be accepted, so she teaches her students radical material about slavery—material that isn’t included in the textbooks. She also works to support the boycott of the Wallaces store, balancing supporting the black community against exploitation and oppression while also being careful to protect her family.

Mama Quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

The Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry quotes below are all either spoken by Mama or refer to Mama. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Puffin Books edition of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry published in 1991.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Shoot,” I mumbled finally, unable to restrain myself from further comment, “it ain’t my fault you gotta be in Mama’s class this year.”

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Stacey Logan, Mama
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel opens on an October morning in Mississippi, Cassie walks to her first day of school along with her brothers Stacey, Christopher-John, and Little Man (Clayton Chester). Stacey responds to Cassie’s frustration with Little Man’s fastidious ways with irritation of his own, and Cassie attributes Stacey’s foul mood to the fact that he will be in his mother’s schoolroom this year. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry thus begins with a relatively benign issue surrounding family and education: a son is embarrassed to be in his mother’s classroom. Yet, as the narrative continues, the specific lessons which Mama teaches will engage with the broader social issues that circumscribe the novel, and far more difficult situations related to family, independence, and duty will arise.

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“In the first place no one cares enough to come down here, and in the second place if anyone should come, maybe he could see all the things we need—current books for all of our subjects, not just somebody’s old throwaways, desks, paper, blackboards, erasers, maps, chalk…”

Related Characters: Mama (speaker)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

After the first day of school ends, Cassie finds her mother discussing the state of the school's books with Cassie's teacher, Miss Crocker. Miss Crocker is willing to accept the pitiful condition of these books, which the school is only allowed to borrow from the county's superintendent office, but Mama is rightfully disturbed enough to glue together the pages of books meant for her classroom. When Miss Crocker protests that an employee of the superintendent could inflict punishment on Mama or the school in response to this, Mama laughs off this concern; no one comes from the county because "no one cares" about this school for black children. And that would be the least of this school's worries; it lacks "all the things" needed for a proper education -- "desks, paper, blackboards, erasers, maps, chalk..." This response, and this scene, demonstrates how Mama is unafraid of voicing the truth about the circumstances which she and her family face. She does not accept the situations which threaten to undermine her dignity. 

Chapter 2 Quotes

“Did the other men get fired?”
“No, ma’am,” answered Mr. Morrison. “They was white.”

Related Characters: Mama (speaker), L.T. Morrison (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Papa returns with Mr. Morrison, a black man who was fired from his job for fighting with other men. When Mama briefly questions Mr. Morrison, likely to quickly ascertain his character before granting him the ability to stay in her home as a hired helper, she asks him who was responsible for starting that fight. Mr. Morrison replies that the white men initiated the engagement. As the conversation continues Mr. Morrison also reveals that these men weren't fired--because they were white. Brief instances such as these reveal the ways that racism is implicit and assumed in this society. It creates unfair, yet undeniable, customs which adults acknowledge without words.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“Sometimes a person’s gotta fight,” he said slowly. “But that store ain’t the place to be doing it. From what I hear, folks like them Wallaces got no respect at all for colored folks and they just think it’s funny when we fight each other. You mama knowed them Wallaces ain’t good folks, that’s why she don’t want y’all down there, and y’all owe it to her and y’allselves to tell her. But I’m gonna leave it up to y’all to decide.”

Related Characters: L.T. Morrison (speaker), Stacey Logan, Mama, The Wallaces
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mr. Morrison catches the Logan children observing Stacey fight T.J. at the Wallace store, a place which Papa has forbidden, Mr. Morrison delivers a powerful lesson. He admits that combat can be necessary in confrontation, and in the face of particularly hostile or overpowering circumstances, "sometimes a person's gotta fight." In addition to this general teaching, though, he specifically disciplines the children for going to the Wallace store. Mr. Morrison does not merely support the previously established rule, but he also explains its purpose; the Wallaces are morally questionable and they openly disrespect black individuals. 

Mr. Morrison also indirectly provides a foil to T.J.'s secrecy, when he explains that he will make the Logan children themselves tell Mama about their journey to the Wallace store. Through his actions, he advocates for honest language and forthcoming behavior, providing yet another way that the Logans can strive to differentiate themselves from secrecy, which so often co-exists alongside racial prejudices and violent acts.

Chapter 7 Quotes

In quiet anger she glared at Stacey and admonished, “In this house we do not give away what loved ones give to us. Now go bring me that coat.”

Related Characters: Mama (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Mama asks Stacey to bring her his coat, so that she can let the sleeves up and fix it so it fits him better, but Stacey admits that he gave the coat to T.J. After Stacey stutters and gives various reasons why T.J. convinced him to give away his coat, Mama gets quite angry that Stacey willingly gave away such a possession and allowed himself to be so manipulated. She chides Stacey that her family members do not "give away what loved ones give to us" -- they do not place others (who are often only looking out for their own interests, as Uncle Hammer reminds everyone) in higher importance than their own family. Of course, the Logans participate in their surrounding community -- the boycott which they lead is meant to improve the lots of all black people living nearby -- but their primary responsibility is always to their own relatives, the more intimate community which will last over time. 

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Mama Character Timeline in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

The timeline below shows where the character Mama appears in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...of the test answers from his mom. Stacey gets mad, saying that T.J. doesn’t know Mama, and T.J. changes the subject to a “burning” that occurred the previous night. He gets... (full context)
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon
...handled a book before, other than the family Bible. The Logans are lucky, though, because Mama owns several books. Still, Cassie is excited at the prospect of getting her own book.... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...when class lets out, but Miss Crocker gets there first, and Cassie overhears their conversation. Mama doesn’t seem to be very upset at her children, however, which frustrates Miss Crocker. Mama... (full context)
Chapter 2
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...The family is surprised but happy. It doesn’t seem like anybody was expecting Papa, though Mama mentions that she sent Papa a letter recently. Papa has brought a giant man back... (full context)
Chapter 3
Racism Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...walk to school. Little Man is especially upset because he’s so meticulous and clean, but Mama explains that the county doesn’t provide much for its black students—most of the money supporting... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
At home, Mama tells Big Ma about the bus incident. She’s glad no one was hurt, but she... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon
Someone knocks on the door, and Mama answers it to see Joe Avery, looking very nervous. He warns them that “They’s ridin’... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
...room. Big Ma starts searching for something under the bed, and Cassie hears Stacey ask Mama if he can help with whatever’s the matter. Mama thanks Stacey but sends him back... (full context)
Chapter 4
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Cassie is helping Big Ma churn butter one morning, and she overhears Big Ma and Mama discussing how Cassie hasn’t been herself lately. They worry whether she might have seen the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...leaves to retrieve it. When he doesn’t return quickly, however, the Logan children wander into Mama’s room and discover him snooping through Mama’s things. T.J. denies that he was snooping for... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
Cassie and her younger brothers, Christopher-John and Little Man, take to Mr. Morrison immediately, asking Mama if they can visit Mr. Morrison in the shed out back where he lives. But... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
The next day, T.J. brags that he’s made a cheat sheet for Mama’s test. However, when Stacey sees the paper, he rips the answers in half. When school... (full context)
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
When Mama comes home, Stacey tells her about his fight with T.J. at the Wallace store. He... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
The following Saturday, Mama wakes the Logan children before dawn and tells them that they’re going to visit a... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
On the drive home, Mama stops to see several other families. She talks about how the Wallace store is a... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...that Charlie Simms shoved Cassie into the road, he gets extremely angry. Big Ma and Mama try to stop him, but he’s determined to confront Charlie Simms, and he says he... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Cassie says she hopes that Uncle Hammer will knock some sense into Mr. Simms, but Mama sends her off to bed early. Mama soon follows her into the room, however, and... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Cassie begins to understand why their skin color causes people to treat them differently. Mama says that true respect is freely given, however; just because Cassie is forced to call... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...Hammer are at the table eating breakfast and look like they haven’t slept all night. Mama tells Cassie that Uncle Hammer will be driving everyone to church in his new car,... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon
...early. It turns out to be a new wool coat. It’s a little big, but Mama says Stacey will grow into it. Stacey’s very happy with the present, and they all... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...the Wallace store and says he’d like to burn it down, but Big Ma and Mama hush him and tell him there are other ways to get back at the Wallaces.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Mama asks Stacey to bring her his coat so that she can take up the sleeves... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...doesn’t want to mess with the white people here, since it could cause trouble, but Mama is indignant. Mama wants to take action against the Wallaces by organizing a boycott, but... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
...whipping for going to the Wallace store. Then the men go to Vicksburg on mysterious business—Mama won’t tell Cassie why—and when they return, Mr. Jamison comes over. He brings a fruitcake... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...day, Mr. Granger arrives at the house. The children all eavesdrop on the conversation from Mama and Papa’s room. Mr. Granger urges them to stop the boycott, threatening that he can... (full context)
Chapter 8
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...wait for Lillian Jean. T.J., meanwhile, has been caught cheating during the exams again, and Mama failed him. T.J. takes it out on the whole Logan family, saying that they think... (full context)
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...tells her teacher that she has to go the bathroom. Instead, she sneaks over to Mama’s classroom, where she sees the white men observing Mama’s lesson on slavery. Mr. Granger says... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Mama says that the real reason she was fired was because of the boycott—and she doesn’t... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
...classmates, tells the Logan children that T.J. was the one who told the Wallaces that Mama destroyed school property and taught things that weren’t in the textbook. T.J. denies this, but... (full context)
Chapter 9
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Cassie asks Mama later why the older Simms boys hang around T.J., and Mama says that it probably... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
...on her parents and hears that Papa plans to go to Vicksburg the next day. Mama thinks he should wait a while for things to cool down a bit, but Papa... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
...to storm heavily. The men haven’t returned as scheduled, and the entire family gets worried. Mama sends the children to bed, but Cassie gets up later and watches as Mama and... (full context)
Chapter 10
Racism Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...and says he would like to take a bullwhip to all three of them, but Mama tells him that that would only get him killed. (full context)
Chapter 12
Family and Community Theme Icon
...them. Papa decides he has to go get Stacey, and he grabs a gun, but Mama tries to stop him, saying it’ll get him killed. Mama begs him not to use... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Soon, Big Ma, Mama, Cassie and her brothers smell fire. The land and the cotton are burning, and Big... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...to put out the fire to save the land. When the Logan women return home, Mama tells the children what happened. When the fire started, Mr. Granger stopped the Simms and... (full context)