In a culture where the memory of slavery is still strong, land is a symbol of independence and autonomy. Big Mama, Mama, and Papa repeat the same refrain throughout the book: "We won't lose the land." The land represents the Logans’ independence from the power structure around them, since by working their own plot of land the Logans are free, in both the sense that they have no master, can earn based on their own work, and can shop where they like. However, the Logans must still exercise their freedom carefully, since the society at large is still grossly unequal and biased against them.
For the Logans, the land is also intrinsically linked to family. Cassie says that it doesn't matter whose name the deed is in because it will always be "Logan land." Her despair at the novel’s end comes from realizing that her family’s ownership of the land is in danger—as is the independence and power it represents.
Land as Independence ThemeTracker
Land as Independence Quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Once our land had been Granger land too, but the Grangers had sold it during Reconstruction to a Yankee for tax money. In 1887, when the land was up for sell again, Grandpa had bought two hundred acres of it, and in 1918, after the first two hundred acres had been paid off, he had bought another two hundred…But there was a mortgage on the two hundred acres bought in 1918 and there were taxes on the full four hundred, and for the past three years there had not been enough money from the cotton to pay both and live on too.
I asked him once why he had to go away, why the land was so important. He took my hand and said in his quiet way: “Look out there, Cassie girl. All that belongs to you. You ain’t never had to live on nobody’s place but your own and long as I live and the family survives, you’ll never have to. That’s important. You may not understand that now, but one day you will. Then you’ll see.”
“…Y’all got it better’n most the folks ‘round here ‘cause y’all gots your own place and y’all ain’t gotta cowtail to a lot of this stuff. But you gotta understand it ain’t easy for sharecroppin’ folks to do what you askin’.”
Uncle Hammer put his arm around Papa. “What good’s a car? It can’t grow cotton. You can’t build a home on it. And you can’t raise four fine babies in it.”
What had happened to T.J. in the night I did not understand, but I knew that it would not pass. And I cried for those things which had happened in the night and would not pass.
I cried for T.J. For T.J. and the land.