Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

whats the meaning of the poem

the poem on chapter eleven

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Here is the poem:

Roll of thunder

Hear my cry

Over the water

Bye and bye

Ole man comin'

Down the line

Whip in hand to

Beat me down

But I ain't

Gonna let him

Turn me 'round.

This is a statement of strength and pride. The "old man" is a slave master and has his whip in hand to beat and make the slave submissive. The speaker voices they may be beat but will never be "tamed."

The song is a spiritual previously sung by slaves and its presence in this chapter speaks to the continued attempts at the whites to dominate blacks seventy years after the Civil War. But the end of the song is most significant, because it portrays blacks' refusal to be dominated.


to show you not one person can hold you down


the bottom paragraph

The Logan family works hard to keep the small piece of farmland they own. They endure many racial injustices. The children are harassed by a school bus full of white children, so they dig out a ditch in the road, trapping the bus and breaking the axle. Cassie, one of the Logan daughters, takes a trip to the nearby town of Strawberry and is shocked by the disrespect she is greeted with. Meanwhile, more serious problems are developing. The Wallace boys burn some local black men, killing one, and so the Logan family begins a boycott of their store. When Stacey, their oldest boy, gets in a fight with his best friend T. J. at the Wallace store, Mama decides to take a tour of the local community and urge people not to let their children go there and not to purchase goods there. However, many families have nowhere else to shop. The Logans offer to buy good for them in Vicksburg, and Mr. Jamison backs their credit.

Meanwhile, Christmas comes, and both Uncle Hammer and Papa come home to join the family. Uncle Hammer drives a shiny new car. When Harlan Grangers comes to try to convince the Logans' to stop the boycott, Hammer and Pap are both defiant. However, Mama soon loses her teaching job, and other pressure is put on the Logan family. Other families who sharecrop Granger's land are forced to return to the Wallace store. And finally, Papa's leg is broken during a violent attack he suffers while trying to make a trip to Vicksburg. Only the brute strength of L. T., a man Papa brings home to help work and defend the farm, drives away the attackers.

Soon, Granger forces the Logans to pay up on a loan they once took out from the bank. Uncle Hammer has to sell his car in order to make the payment. Meanwhile, T. J. has become a rogue, a known thief, and he hangs out with two trouble-making White teenagers, Melvin and R. W.. One day, they bring him along on a murderous rampage and manage to frame him. Papa and L. T. go to stop the lynching that follows. Almost as soon as they leave, however, the cotton field catches fire, as if it was struck by lightning. The lynch mob and the local black farmers must band together in order to stop the fire. It turns out that Papa started the fire in order to stop the lynching.

Please like it took me a long time


. J. and Stacey are soon buddies again. Big Ma takes T. J., Stacey, and Cassie to the market in the town of Strawberry one day. While Big Ma is visiting the office of Mr. Jamison, trouble-making T. J. convinces the other children to go ahead and do some shopping. In a general store, the clerk waits on white customers and ignores them. Cassie assumes the man has forgotten about them, and so she tugs at his sleeve and reminds him. He yells at her and tells her to get out. Crushed, she walks out onto the street and stumbles into Lillian Jean, Jeremy's sister. She and her father push Cassie out in the street, trying to force her to apologize. Cassie is furious when Big Ma makes her apologize. The children are silent on the way home. When they arrive, they are surprised to see a car that looks like Harlan Granger's sitting in the barn. Running inside, they find that it belongs to Uncle Hammer who has come for his winter visit. When Hammer hears about the abuse Cassie received, he runs off with a gun to find Lillian Jean's father. L. T. goes with him and manages to talk him out of doing anything foolish. The next day, Uncle Hammer drives the family to church. He has brought a new coat for Stacey, who is very proud, although T. J. teases him, saying the oversized coat makes him look like the preacher. After church, they all go for a drive. When they near a bridge, a buggy that is crossing backs up to let them by, thinking the car is Harlan Granger's. As the family passes, they see it is the Wallace family that has let them by--they see shocked looks on the faces of the Wallace's. Commentary Increasingly, the problem faced by the Logan family is racism. Different characters have different reactions to racism. Uncle Hammer flies into a rage, and gets into his car to go beat up or shoot the man who knocked Cassie into the street. He also threatens to burn down the Wallace store, referring to the fact that he fought in World War I with the Berrys, the men that were burned by the Wallaces. For Hammer, a sense of the past, of the sacrifices he has made for his country, does not allow toleration of racism. Big Ma has a more complicated way of dealing with racism. In Strawberry, she makes Cassie apologize to Lillian Jean. Cassie blames Big Ma for the incident, thinking that her Papa would have stood up to Lillian Jean's father. However, Big Ma is an old woman, and she had little choice, as Mama hints when trying to explain the situation to Cassie. Also, Big Ma is very defiant in some ways. Her entire life, for example, has been a struggle to keep the Logan land away from Harlan Granger. Stacey and Cassie are learning about racism. Cassie does not fully understand the situation in Spokane, Mississippi--she does not understand why Blacks have to back down. Stacey, on the other hand, understands that this is necessary in the short-term in order to survive.