Cassie finds Lillian Jean on the walk to school and offers to carry her books for her. T.J. and the other Logan children don’t understand what Cassie’s doing, but when Little Man threatens to tell Mama, Stacey stops him. He says that whatever’s going on is between Cassie and Lillian Jean and no one is going to tell anybody anything. T.J. tries to get Stacey to find out the answers to the next examination again, but Stacey tells him not to mention the test answers to him ever again.
Cassie is trying to find her own way of delivering justice in a highly skewed and unfair system. Although her other siblings take offense at the way she’s kissing up to Lillian Jean, Stacey recognizes what Cassie’s doing, and he encourages her to find her own way of maintaining dignity in a society that makes it very hard to do so.
One day after Uncle Hammer goes back North, Papa has a talk with Cassie in the forest. He explains that there are a lot of things she’ll have to do in life in order to survive, even though she won’t want to do them. Papa adds that her temper could get her into trouble. The only respect that matters, however, is the respect she has for herself. Papa then says that he’ll trust Cassie to make the right decision about Lillian Jean—but adds that if she makes the wrong one, she could get the family into a lot of trouble. Cassie promises that Mr. Simms will never find out about how she’ll handle things with Lillian Jean.
It’s Cassie’s dad’s turn to talk to her about how racism works and how things aren’t fair in life—echoing the talk Cassie’s mom gave after the Strawberry incident. Cassie takes his words as a sort of validation for the secret revenge she’s planning for Lillian Jean, since he’s telling her to pick her fights carefully and strategically. If something goes wrong, it can affect the whole Logan family.
For the entire month, Cassie acts like Lillian Jean’s slave, carrying her books and absorbing the gossip Lillian Jean tells her. Then one day, after exams, Cassie decides it’s her chance to act. She goes to the crossroads to 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 they’re better than they are. He heads to the Wallace store. Cassie tells the other Logan children to go on, since she has to wait for Lillian Jean.
Cassie plots carefully about how to deal with Lillian Jean. This is very different from how Cassie dealt with her problems towards the beginning of her book. Instead of yelling insults or saying directly how she feels, Cassie has learned to keep quiet and plan revenge strategically, carefully, and on her own terms.
When Lillian Jean gets there, Cassie takes her books and tells her that she has a surprise for Lillian Jean in the woods. Lillian Jean is delighted and follows Cassie to a clearing in the forest, where Cassie then throws down Lillian Jean’s books and stomps on them. Lillian Jean and Cassie fight, and Cassie makes sure not to make any marks on Lillian Jean’s face. Cassie forces Lillian Jean to apologize and tells her that if Lillian Jean tells anyone about this fight, Cassie will reveal all the secrets and gossip Lillian Jean told her over the last month. Lillian Jean seems shocked by the encounter, saying that Cassie had been such a nice little girl.
Cassie finally takes her revenge on Lillian Jean, making her apologize for being racist and rude in the past. Cassie has managed to keep her own mouth shut, and meanwhile, she’s learned how powerful words can be in the form of secrets and gossip. Using Lillian Jean’s secrets as collateral, she manages to ensure that Lillian Jean won’t tell anyone that Cassie beat her up.
The next day, one of the Wallace brothers, Kaleb Wallace, and Mr. Granger show up at school to talk to the principal. Cassie sees them arrive through the window and 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 that what Mama’s teaching isn’t in the textbook—and Mama retorts that what’s in the textbook isn’t all true. Mr. Granger has Mama fired from her teaching job, saying that she thinks she’s smarter than the person who wrote the textbook. The children walk home with Mama after school that day, and Mama tells Papa, Mr. Morrison, and Big Ma what happened when they arrive.
This is yet another instance of injustice in the book. The teachers at the black school are forced to teach lessons about their own history that aren’t true. When someone like Mama refuses to teach false material, she gets into trouble and loses her teaching position.
Mama says that the real reason she was fired was because of the boycott—and she doesn’t know what they’ll do, since they needed that money. Papa says they’ll figure something out, and Mama nods and goes out to walk. Mr. Morrison offers to take a job, but Papa says that he’d rather Mr. Morrison stay around the house to keep an eye on things. Papa asks the children to be extra considerate around Mama for the next few days.
Mama knows that the real reason she was fired was because Harlan Granger is trying to stop the boycott, which causes him to lose money on the Wallace shop (he secures a portion of the profits from the shop himself). Papa and the rest of the family band together to support Mama through a difficult time.
Little Willie Wiggins, one of Stacey’s 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 none of the kids believe him, and when T.J. returns to school, all the other students shun him. When T.J. finally realizes that the Logans are no longer his friends, he gets angry and shouts that he didn’t like them anyway—he has white friends who are better and who give him things.
Stacey finally realizes that T.J. isn’t a good friend to have around, since T.J. crossed the line by hurting Mama and the Logan family.