Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Character Profiles
T.J. Avery is repeating Mama’s seventh-grade class, a fourteen-year-old peer of Stacey’s who talks incessantly as he walks to school with the Logan children. He is a continual source of gossip, revealing such happenings as the burning of the Berry family. He gets Stacey in trouble by cheating in Mama’s class and obtains his new wool coat by nicknaming him “Preacher Man” until Stacey gives it to him out of shame. His father is a sharecropper on Granger land, and T.J. struggles to find his place in the community, mistaking the attention of the Simms brothers for friendship, which he desperately craves.
Harlan Granger is a local white landowner, whose family owns the land worked by the Averys as well as the store operated by the Wallaces. The Grangers once owned the Logan property as well. Harlan drives a silver Packard and shows off his relative affluence in the community. He selfishly wishes for a return to the order of things before the war and is among the three men who come to school to tell Mama she is fired.
Mr. Jamison is a lawyer in town, the only white person Cassie hears call her mother and grandmother “Missus.” His northern ways are respectful of the Logans and other black families in the neighborhood, but he is aware of the trouble brewing and cautions David against raising suspicion about the origins of the fire. His generous spirit contrasts strongly with that of Harlan Granger.
Cassie Logan is the nine-year-old narrator of the novel and shares her candid opinions of the racism evident in the 1930s in rural Mississippi. She is smart, quick-tempered, and deeply observant of all around her. In her fourth-grade year, Cassie grows from a hot-headed child into a more mature girl, learning from those around her that while life is often unfair, she must be responsible for the choices she makes. She witnesses unforgivable wrongs, from the indignity of being forced to apologize to a white girl to the adult horrors of lynchings, beatings and burnings based on race. With the support of her loving and wise family, Cassie matures and develops her sense of self amidst the backdrop of racial violence and injustice.
Big Ma (Caroline) Logan
Big Ma (Caroline) Logan is David and Hammer’s mother, who lost four other children during her marriage to Paul Edward, whom she married at eighteen. Together they bought and worked the four hundred acres of land on which the family still lives, half in 1887 and the rest in 1918 once the first two hundred had been paid off. She often imparts the lessons of history as she recounts the family’s struggles with the white Granger family, which was forced to sell off pieces of their land during reconstruction.
Clayton Chester “Little Man” Logan
Clayton Chester “Little Man” Logan is the youngest of the Logan siblings. He has a strong will and keen sense of justice. His efforts to keep clean against the dirt of the world are largely unsuccessful, yet as his name shows he is capable of insightful understanding far beyond his six years. This is most apparent in his protest against the old and worn school book he is given by an ignorant teacher who does not even comprehend the insult, which the boy reacts to by throwing the book on the floor, jumping on it, and then receiving his punishment without shedding a tear.
Christopher-John Logan is Cassie’s cheerful and sensitive second-youngest brother, who, at seven, is described as short and pudgy, and also quieter and more demure than the other Logan children. He loyally follows the others in their daytime and nighttime adventures, going along cooperatively and quickly forgetting any unpleasantness in favor of returning all to good spirits.
David (Papa) Logan
David (Papa) Logan is a strong and solid paternal character, often away from home working on the railroad, but his holiday appearance is the highlight of the children’s lives. He works hard on the land he was raised on, and believes it and his family are to be protected from the threat of racism and hatred. He is wise and cautious, thoughtfully persuading his neighbors to stop shopping at the Wallace store. He shows respect towards others, including his wife and children, and earns theirs in return.
“Hammer” Logan is David’s older brother and only surviving sibling, who visits the family for the holidays and comes bearing expensive gifts from up north, where he earns a “man’s wages.” He arrives in a silver Packard identical to the one driven by Mr. Granger, and at one point speeds it across a narrow bridge when mistaken for the white man. His temper is evident from the start when he rushes off to confront Charlie Simms for forcing Cassie off the sidewalk during her first venture to Strawberry, where the family sells dairy products. His hot-headedness is kept in check by his brother, and he later shows great restraint and maturity in selling his automobile to save the Logan plot of land from foreclosure.
Mary (Mama) Logan
Mary (Mama) Logan is an educated schoolteacher and loving parent, who teaches the lessons of slavery at home as well as in her seventh-grade classroom. Raised on the Delta, she attended teacher training school before marrying David Logan and bearing four children, who she raises with her mother-in-law while he is on the railroad. She is strong-willed and a proud person, who supports her children in seeking justice. She eventually loses her job because of her belief in equality, but never loses her sense of right and wrong.
Stacey Logan is the oldest of the four Logan siblings, and acts as protective older brother as he confronts the challenges of both racism and adolescence. He leads his three siblings in plotting revenge against the driver of the school bus that torments them daily, and his friendship is sought by many characters in the book, including Jeremy Simms and T.J. Avery. Neither fully succeeds in this effort, the former because he is white, and the latter because he fails the tests of loyalty and honesty, both important Logan family values. However, Stacey’s own moral compass leads him to help T.J. out of a sense of responsibility and solidarity, despite the older boy’s shortcomings.
Mr. Morrison mysteriously arrives at the Logan household and is introduced by Papa as a colleague from the railroad who will protect the family in his absence. His strength and size impress the children, and he is a forceful figure in insisting that they listen to their mother about not visiting the Wallace store. Jeremy Simms
Jeremy Simms is a shy white boy who walks part-way to school with the Logans out of a sense of solidarity. He objects to the unfairness of the era, evident in the daily mud splashing of the black children by the school bus carrying his own peers to their own school house. Although his father Charlie, sister Lillian Jean, and brothers R.W. and Melvin physically and verbally abuse him for his friendliness towards the Logans, Jeremy consistently seeks their friendship. He even gives Stacey a hand-whittled flute for Christmas, which Cassie witnesses Stacey immediately hide away.
Kaleb Wallace runs the nearest store, which the Logans begin to boycott after the burning of the Berrys. Besides the violent behavior of Kaleb and his brother Thurston, who Stacey also sees shoot Papa, their store caters to smoking and drinking. Kaleb accompanies a school board member and Harlan Granger the day Mama is fired, and represents the anger and hatred of the white community for the blacks of the time.