The Magnolia State
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Mildred Taylor’s award winning book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, was written in 1976 and has been reissued many times since then. This book was the 1st full length novel in the Logan Family Saga following the novella Song of the Trees. There have been a total of 9 books in this series which includes prequels, full length novels and novellas. The 10th and final novel in this series, All the Days Past, All the Days to Come is due out in January 2020. Mildred Taylor based all of the Logan Family books on the experiences of her father, grandparents and great-grandparents.
These children’s books don’t flinch in the face of tough topics. As Mildred Taylor wrote in the preface to The Land: “Although there are those who wish to ban my books because I have used language that is painful, I have chosen to use the language that was spoken during the period, for I refuse to whitewash history. The language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including my family…It has been my wish that by understanding this family and what they endured…there would also be a further understanding of why there was a Civil Rights Movement, a movement that changed our nation.” I recommend this book for children in 6th grade and up. Younger children can be introduced to the Logan family with the novella Song of the Trees.
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry is told by 9-year-old Cassie Logan as she navigates life in rural Mississippi with her grandmother, parents and siblings: Stacey (13), Christopher-John (7) and Little Man (6). Cassie’s parents have created a loving home that has fostered a sense of pride, worth and self-respect in their children. During Cassie’s seminal year starting with the harvest of 1933 and ending a year later, she is exposed to the many injustices and struggles that African Americans endured at this time.
Cassie’s father works on the railroad and her mother is a teacher at the segregated black school. The Logans are able to maintain a bit of economic independence as the only black landowners in the area. Up until now Cassie has been shielded from the precariousness of her family’s position in the community and the difficulties experienced by the neighboring black sharecroppers. Once Cassie becomes aware of the ongoing efforts by Harlan Granger, a dangerous and powerful landowner, to take the Logan land and after her mother loses her teaching job for trying to protect her neighbors from an unfair store owner, Cassie must do a lot of growing up and figure out how to help her family stay safe while keeping their land and their dignity.
Awards: NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature 2003, Jane Addams Honor Citation 1977, Notable Book Citation of American Library Association 1976, Newbery Medal 1977, Buxtehuder Bulle Award 1985.