Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Themes and Colors
Racism Theme Icon
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon

Because they live in a wildly unjust society that’s biased against black people, the Logans must create their own forms of justice while maintaining their self-respect, dignity, and protecting their own safety. This can be an extremely difficult balancing act, even when the slights are smaller ones, like being ignored in the grocery store—which causes Cassie to yell at the store manager and get her family kicked out—or larger injustices, like being tossed around and forced to apologize for accidentally bumping into someone. Cassie has to learn to hold her tongue even when her pride tells her to speak up because it’s the only way for her to maintain some dignity in situations where she has no real power.

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Injustice and Dignity ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Injustice and Dignity appears in each chapter of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Injustice and Dignity Quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Below you will find the important quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry related to the theme of Injustice and Dignity.
Chapter 1 Quotes

[Little Man] ran frantically along the road looking for a foothold and, finding one, hopped onto the bank, but not before the bus had sped past enveloping him in a scarlet haze while laughing white faces pressed against the bus windows.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Little Man
Related Symbols: Modes of Transportation
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel opened with Cassie encouraging her brother to move more quickly, and Little Man refusing to do so, afraid that he might dirty his clothes on the first day of his first year of school. Little Man kept fastidiously moving slowly along the dusty and dirty road, attempting to keep his Sunday clothes clean -- until the white children's schoolbus foils all of his efforts, in the moment that it rushes by. This small, seemingly innocent incidence represents the core struggle of the novel: the structures which benefit white society prevent African Americans from maintaining their property. Yet, Little Man is still naive about this reality; he even asks his older sister why only white children have a schoolbus. This suggests that the effects of racism penetrate one's earliest days, although consciousness of these issues may only arise when one is older and able to articulate his or her losses of dignity.


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The Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School, one of the largest black schools in the county, was a dismal end to an hour’s journey. Consisting of four weather-beaten wooden houses on stilts of brick, 320 students, seven teachers, a principal, a caretaker, and the caretaker’s cow, which kept the wide crabgrass lawn sufficiently clipped in spring and summer, the school was located near three plantations, the largest and closest by far being the Granger plantation.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

After Cassie passes and details the appearance of the Jefferson Davis County School, the local school for white children, she illustrates her displeasure with her own Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School, a "dismal end to an hour's journey." She describes her school in direct comparison to the white children's school -- one lawn is "crabgrass" that is only "sufficiently clipped," while the other lawn has a "wide sports field"; one is a "long white wooden building looming," while another is merely "four weather-beaten wooden houses on stilts of brick." The nature of these descriptions suggests Cassie's acute awareness that the circumstances of white and African American children should be directly compared; they are fundamentally unequal, and the extreme nature of this inequality is perhaps best represented by these stark differences, which Cassie describes but does not explain.

“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.

“These folks getting’ so bad in here. Heard tell they lynched a boy a few days ago at Crosston.”

“And ain’t a thing gonna be done ‘bout it,” said Mr. Lanier. “That’s what’s so terrible! When Henrietta went to the sheriff and told him what she’d seed, he called her a liar and sent her on home. Now I hear tells that some of them men that done it been ‘round braggin’ ‘bout it. Sayin’ they’d do it again if some other uppity nigger get out of line.”

Related Characters: Mr. Avery (speaker), Mr. Lanier (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
After Church services on Sunday, Cassie's community congregates in support of the Berry's family, and individuals discuss the horrific nature of recent events. For instance, Henrietta Toggins, who was with John Henry and the Beacon on the day they were burned, supposedly witnessed drunk and unstable white men threaten the Berrys earlier in the day. The police refused to believe her story, however, which makes the story of the Berrys' death even more tragic and unjust. Black individuals may be thus inappropriately accused of lying and deprived of the dignity associated with speech. They do not only experience terrible crimes, but they can only discuss these occurrences among themselves, lest they be even further mistreated. 

Papa sat very quietly while the Laniers and the Averys talked, studying them with serious eyes. Finally, he took the pipe from his mouth and made a statement that seemed to the boys and me to be totally disconnected with the conversation. “In this family, we don’t shop at the Wallace store.”

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Papa (speaker), The Wallaces, Mr. Avery, Mr. Lanier
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

The Laniers and the Averys discuss how the police refused to believe Henrietta's testimony and, according to Mr. Lanier, "ain't a thing gonna be done 'bout it" or about the Berrys burning. In a seemingly disjointed but clearly serious response, Papa says that his family will avoid shopping at the Wallace store. This statement does not make sense to his children -- Papa does not directly accuse the Wallaces of being culpable for burning the Berrys and instill fear in the children present -- but it indirectly implicates the Wallaces with murdering the Berrys. It also suggests that perhaps the community can indeed respond to recent events; by boycotting the Wallace's store, they can use their financial independence to make a clear statement against the Wallaces' crimes. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

By the end of October the rain had come, falling heavily upon the six-inch layer of dust which had had its own way for more than two months. At first the rain had merely splotched the dust, which seemed to be rejoicing in its own resiliency…but eventually the dust was forced to surrender to the mastery of the rain and it churned into a fine red mud that oozed between our toes and slopped against our ankles as we marched miserably to and from school.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker)
Related Symbols: Weather, Modes of Transportation
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

For this aptly titled narrative, the circumstances of weather often symbolize social situations. The dust that clings to Little Man's shoes represents the customs and laws that restrict the black community's progress, and the rain that begins to pour as autumn continues represents the social difficulties that intensify as they develop over time. The everyday plight of the Logan schoolchildren directly stems from prejudice; they only struggle in these weather conditions because black schoolchildren cannot receive a bus and the white bus driver enjoys threatening to splash the children with rain and mud. Yet, it also symbolizes the more enduring and problematic challenges which racism presents to adults.  

Knowing that the bus driver liked to entertain his passengers by sending us slipping along the road to the almost inaccessible forest banks washed to a smooth baldness…we consequently found ourselves comical objects to cruel eyes that gave no thought to our misery.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker)
Related Symbols: Modes of Transportation
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

The schoolbus filled with white children often veere dangerously close to the Logan children as it passee them on the road, forcing them to climb the slippery slopes along the edge of the road. The driver intentionally movee the bus this way every morning because the white schoolchildren delight in observing the Logan children struggle. The white children watch the Logans' struggles, but they do not truly see them. They did not attempt to truly consider how the Logan children are feeling; instead, they laugh. From their position of privilege, the white children do not need to understand the Logans' perspective; they have far greater mobility, in both the figurative as well as literal sense.

“Well, he don’t and you don’t,” Big Ma said, getting up. “So ain’t no use frettin’ ‘bout it. One day you’ll have a plenty of clothes and maybe even a car of yo’ own to ride ‘round in, so don’t you pay no mind to them ignorant white folks.”

Related Characters: Big Ma (speaker), Cassie Logan, Stacey Logan
Related Symbols: Modes of Transportation
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

When Little Man returns from school one day, he complains to Big Ma about the soiled state of his clothes, and she exhibits her no-nonsense refusal to coddle her grandchildren, as well as her reliance on hope. She firmly but gently tells Little Man to "pay no mind" to the "ignorant" white individuals who dirty his clothes; she inspires him to instead look towards the future, telling him that "one day" he will have "plenty of clothes." Although Big Ma might not be able to have such hope for herself, she hopes that her grandchildren will have more than they all have now. They may even have additional freedoms that are more difficult to attain than possessions -- like the independence which a car symbolizes. 

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

“Then if you want something and it’s a good thing and you got it in the right way, you better hang on to it and don’t let nobody talk you out of it. You care what a lot of useless people say ‘bout you you’ll never get anywhere, ‘cause there’s a lotta folks don’t want you to make it. You understand what I’m telling you?”

Related Characters: Uncle Hammer (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

As Uncle Hammer lectures Stacey about Stacey's mistake of letting T.J. coerce him into handing over his fine coat, Hammer uses the case of the two schoolchildren to impart a larger lesson. T.J. may be a child, but he is like many adults in their community who are self-centered and constantly taking from the other families and individuals around them. Hammer reminds all of the children present that they should maintain good morals, only acquiring property in honest ways because of hard work, and not allow others with looser morals to take away the benefits of their success. Hammer alludes to the unfortunate reality that many individuals do not wish others to succeed; indeed, this impulse is one of the biggest reasons for the racial inequality that affects the entire novel. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

“You see that fig tree over yonder, Cassie? Them other trees all around…that oak and walnut, they’re a lot bigger and they take up more room and give so much shade they almost overshadow that little ole fig. But that fig’s got roots that run deep, and it belongs in that yard as much as that oak and walnut…It don’t give up. It give up, it’ll die. There’s a lesson to be learned from that little tree, Cassie girl, ‘cause we’re like it. We keep doing what we gotta, and we don’t give up. We can’t.”

Related Characters: Papa (speaker), Cassie Logan
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Avery and Mr. Lanier visit and inform the Logans that they cannot participate in the boycott any longer, because they have been threatened with a chain gang. Stacey immediately explodes in anger about them acting "like a bunch of scared jackrabbits," but Papa strives to make his children understand that the Logans' relative financial stability is a gift that other families cannot enjoy. Yet, at the same time, the Logans are like a "fig tree" -- a type of tree which has rich Biblical symbolism. The Logans' symbolic tree may not be as tall and mighty as others (the oak and the walnut), but it is deeply rooted; the Logans may not be able to immediately change their social circumstances, as much as they wished to with the boycott, but they remain determined to improve the lot of black individuals in Mississippi and will keep striving despite this immediate setback. "We keep doing what we gotta," Papa says, like that "little tree."