Cassie is in bed, listening to Mr. Morrison singing a spiritual that begins with “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” It’s another hot night with a storm approaching. Suddenly, Cassie hears tapping on the porch. She sneaks past Big Ma and creeps to the door, where she listens some more and then opens the door to find T.J., badly injured. They go into the boys’ room, and T.J. tells them that R.W. and Melvin beat him after he threated to tell what had happened. He asks Stacey to help him get home, but Stacey wants to hear what happened first.
The approaching storm signals that something major is going to happen in the plot. Mr. Morrison's song suggests a desire to at least be hear and recognized within the storm, which might be taken as a desire for the dignity of being recognized—by other men, or by God—even in the dreadful circumstances of entrenched racism. T.J.s friends weren’t really his friends after all (as everyone but he knew). In this instance, Papa’s words were true: the Simms brothers didn’t really regard T.J. as an equal, so they had no trouble turning on him.
When T.J. and the Simms brothers went to Strawberry to get the pistol, the Barnett store was already closed. The Simms brothers said that they should go in and take it anyway, and that if they got caught, they’d just tell Mr. Barnett that they were planning to pay on Monday. T.J. climbed in through a small window and let the Simms brothers in. R.W. and Melvin were wearing stockings over their faces, and T.J. got scared then, but the Simms brothers wouldn’t stop. Mr. Barnett and his wife, who lived above the store, woke up from the noise and came to investigate, but R.W. hit Mr. Barnett with the back of his axe, and Mr. Barnett falls down as if he’s dead. His wife thought that all three of the robbers were black because of the stockings.
The Simms brothers are also fine with letting Mrs. Barnett believe that all three of the robbers were black. They’re only concerned with protecting themselves, not with doing what’s right or fair. And they know that the racism of their society will make it likely that any white person being robbed will just assume that the robbery is the work of black people.
Afterwards, T.J. asked to be taken home, but the Simms brothers refused. T.J. then threatened to tell on them, and that’s when R.W. and Melvin beat him up, leaving him in the back of their truck. T.J. managed to get a ride from a farmer later on, and he ended up at the Logan house. T.J. swears that he’s telling the truth, and the Logan children help him get home.
The Simms brothers weren’t true friends to T.J.—they just used him because they felt he wasn’t their equal. Meanwhile, the Logan children help T.J. even though he’s been cruel to them in the past because he’s still a part of their community, and they recognize that he’s hurt.
As soon as T.J. slips into his bedroom window, however, several cars drive up. The cars belong to the Simms, the Wallaces, and several other white men. They accuse T.J. of being a murderer. R.W. and Melvin drag the Avery family outside and the Simms find the pearl-handled gun on T.J. The white men also demand to know where the other two black men are.
The older Simms brothers lead the hunt for T.J., even though they know that they’re the ones responsible. Additionally, they try to pin their crimes on two other unsuspecting black men. The society they live in is so unfair that there’s little doubt they’ll get away with it.
Mr. Jamison drives up and asks the men to give T.J. to him and the sheriff, but the Wallaces threaten to hurt Jamison as well if he gets in their way. The crowd wants to hang T.J. then and there, but the sheriff says that Harlan Granger doesn’t want anybody hanged on his land. The Wallaces respond that they’ll do the hanging on the road, and they suggest that Papa and Mr. Morrison be hanged as well. Cassie, Christopher-John, and Little Man run to tell Papa while Stacey watches to see where the white men take T.J.
The Logans work together to protect their family and community—the younger kids go back to warn Papa, and Stacey stays to see where the men will take T.J. Meanwhile, the white men pay no heed to the law. They simply want to take their own revenge and hang T.J. without a trial. They don’t particularly care what other black men they hang either.