Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Top Ten Quotes
- “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 land 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.”
Cassie remembers asking her father why he must leave to work on the railroad and his response emphasized the family’s connection to the land his father bought and worked. With the recent memory of slavery still shaping the family’s experience, he wants his children to always be free in a way his ancestors weren’t.
- “The moon slid from its dark covers, cloaking the earth in a shadowy white light, and I could see Mr. Morrison clearly, moving silently, like a jungle cat, from the side of the house to the road, a shotgun in his hand.”
Cassie sees Mr. Morrison standing guard when she awakes in the middle of the night to see half a dozen cars turn around in the driveway.
- “They also said that slavery was good for us because it taught us to be good Christians-like the white people.” She sighed deeply, her voice fading into a distant whisper. “But they didn’t teach us Christianity to save our souls, but to teach us obedience. They were afraid of slave revolts and they wanted us to learn the Bible’s teachings about slaves being loyal to their masters. But even teaching us Christianity didn’t make us stop wanting to be free...”
Mama tells Cassie about slavery, explaining that blacks became Christians in the South not because they necessarily chose it, but because of white missionaries teaching the value of obedience and interpreting the Bible to assert control over black people.
- “[T]hen if you want something and it’s a good thing and you got it in the right way, you better hang on to it and don’t let anybody talk you out of it. You care what a lot of useless people say ‘bout you you’ll never get anywhere, ‘cause there’s a lotta folks don’t want you to make it. You understand what I’m telling you?”
Uncle Hammer’s reaction to Stacey giving T.J. his coat.
- “Ever since we were boys, Harlan’s lived in the past. His grandmother filled him with all kinds of tales about the glory of the South before the war. You know, back then the Grangers had one of the biggest plantations in the sate and Spokane County practically belonged to them...and they thought it did too. They were consulted about everything concerning this area and they felt it was up to them to see that things worked smoothly, according to the law- a law basically for whites. Well, Harlan feels the same way now as his grandmother did back then. He also feels strongly about this land and he resents the fact that you won’t sell it back to him. You back the credit with it now and he’ll seize this opportunity to take it away from you. You can count on it.”
Mr. Jamison explains Harlan Granger’s character to the Logans, dissuading them from using their own land to back the credit for sharecroppers to shop in Vicksburg instead of the Wallace store.
- “She shook her head and sighed. ‘Then Mitchell, he got killed in the war and Kevin got drowned...’ Her voice faded completely, but when she spoke again it had hardened and there was a determined glint in her eyes. ‘Now all the boys I got is my baby boys, your papa and your Uncle Hammer, and this they place as much as it is mine. They blood’s in this land, and here that Harlan Granger always talkin’ ‘bout buyin’ it....He don’t know nothin’ ‘bout me or this land, he think I’m gonna sell!”
Big Ma is adamant in telling Cassie she won’t ever sell the land.
- “Cassie, there’ll be a whole lot of things you ain’t gonna wanna do but you’ll have to do in this life just so you can survive. Now I don’t like the idea of what Charlie Simms did to you no more than your Uncle Hammer, but I had to weigh the hurt of what happened to you to what could’ve happened if I went after him. If I’d’ve gone after Charlie Simms and given him a good thrashing like I felt like doing, the hurt to all of us would’ve been a whole lot more than the hurt you received, so I let it be. I don’t like letting it be, but I can live with that decision...But there are other things, Cassie, that if I’d let be, they’d eat away at me and destroy me in the end. And it’s the same with you, baby. There are things you can’t back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it’s up to you to decide what them things are. You have to demand respect in this world, ain’t nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for-that’s how you gain respect. But, little one, ain’t nobody’s respect worth more than your own. You understand that?”
Papa helps Cassie understand the difference between things to let be and others to demand after she’s been told to call Lillian Jean “Miss.”
- “You see that fig tree over yonder, Cassie? Them other trees all around...that oak and walnut, they’re a lot bigger and they take up more room and give so much shade they almost overshadow that little ole fig. But that fig tree’s got roots that run deep, and it belongs in that yard as much as that oak and that walnut. It keeps on blooming, bearing good fruit year after year, knowing all the time it’ll never get as big as them other trees. Just keeps on growing and doing what it gotta do. It don’t give up. It give up, it’ll die. There’s a lesson to be learned from that little tree, Cassie girl, ‘cause we’re like it. We keep doing what we gotta, and we don’t give up. We can’t.”
Papa explains he’s not giving up on the boycott of the Wallace store to Cassie and Stacey and likens the Logan family experience to the small fig tree that similarly refuses to give up despite the obstacles in its path.Despite the unfairness of being discriminated against because of their race, Papa argues it is essential the family continue to insist on doing what is right.Even though the Logans have not been treated as though they belong to the community as much as the white families, like the fig tree they will not give up on finding a way to grow.
- The night whispered of distant thunder. It was muggy, hot, a miserable night for sleeping. Twice I awakened hoping that it was time to be up, but each time the night had been total blackness with no hint of a graying dawn. On the front porch Mr. Morrison sat singing soft and low into the long night, chanting to the approaching thunder.”
Cassie describes the sounds of the night that ends in fire.
- In the afternoon when I awakened, or tomorrow or the next day, the boys and I would still be free to run the red road, to wander through the old forest and sprawl lazily on the banks of the pond. Come October, we would trudge to school as always, barefooted and grumbling, fighting the dust and the mud and the Jefferson Davis school bus. But T.J. never would again. I had never liked T.J., but he had always been there, a part of me, a part of my life, just like the mud and the rain, and I had thought that he always would be. Yet the mud and the rain and the dust would all pass. I knew and understood that. 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.”
Cassie concludes that while childhood will continue for her and her brothers, T.J.’s has ended.