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The story is set in Mississippi during the Great Depression around 1933-1934. It is an area where former plantation owners and their descendants have been forced to resort to sharecropping their land in order to continue some semblance of their pre-Civil War way of life. The Black families who had been freed by the war have had no where to go and no means of survival off the plantations. Thus they became the tenant farmers or sharecroppers, planting acres of cotton or other crops. The landowner took a percentage of the crop as his share, and the tenant farmer tried to survive on what remained. A major problem with the system was that there was no standard for what was a fair share of the farmerís work.
In this type of environment, a Black family who owned their own land was unique and would have been seen as a threat to the whites. There were also no banking regulations. If a bank owner wanted to recall a loan and demand that it be paid immediately, there was nothing to prevent him from doing so.
In Mississippi, not even the American legal system worked for the blacks. A white person could even go so far as to kill a Black without fear of prosecution, but a Black person could be executed for very minor offenses-or even on entirely false charges, which frequently happened. It is in this environment of fear and subjugation that we find the Logan family.
Mary Logan, school teacher and mother to the Logan children. Soft spoken but not afraid to stand up for what is right. Starts the business of boycotting the Wallace store.
Grandmother of the Logan children on the fatherís side. She actually owns the land but has it transferred into her sonsí names to protect it. Tells stories at Christmas time about her own background.
Papa (David Logan)
Father to the Logan children. Usually is away from home to work on the railroad. Metes out advice and punishment when he is home. Takes action against Wallace store and burns his own cotton to stop a hanging.
Davidís brother. A generous hothead who will do anything for the family but has too much of a temper to be able to spend much time with the Logans. Sells his car to save the land.
Cassieís next youngest sibling. Chubby tag-a-long. Has no significant action.
Cassieís baby brother. Just entering first grade at the start of the story. Has a fetish for cleanliness, but doesnít like to be left out of anything.
A sharecropper on Granger land that adjoins the Logan land. Easily intimidated, unable to control his son, T.J.
Cassieís school teacher. Comes across as rather pompous. Paddles Cassie and Little Man for refusing the books.
Jim Lee Barnett
The owner of a mercantile in Strawberry. Dies of injuries received during the robbery of his store.
A white lawyer and friend to the Logans. Signs for credit so the sharecroppers can shop in Vicksburg
R.W. and Melvin Simms
White teenage boys. Have no respect for blacks, including T.J. but will take advantage of his ignorance in order to commit crimes and transfer the blame to him. Break in to Barnettís Mercantile, but blame T.J.
The Simms daughter. An arrogant nine year old who insults Cassie in Strawberry
Father to Lillian Jean, R.W., Melvin and Jeremy. Hates blacks in general. Involved in the Strawberry incident where he shoves Cassie into the road and demands a humiliating apology for Lillian Jean.
He tries to befriend the Logans in spite of his family. A quiet, good natured little boy who doesnít seem to fit with his own people. Brings messages to the Logans and gets help when the fire starts.
A white land owner. Pays 50 cents an hour to field workers. Wants to buy the Logan land as it once belonged to his ancestors.
Mary Lou Wellever
A student; the daughter of the principal. Tries to squabble with Cassie on the first day of school about her choice of seat.
Gracey Pearson, Alma Scott, Moe Turner. Students of sharecroppers. Mentioned on the first day of school, but have no action in the plot
Sharecroppers. Have no action other than helping to fight the fire.
Sharecroppers. Victims of the initial tragedy which motivated the Logans to stop shopping at the Wallace store. The Wallace brothers dowsed the Berry brothers in kerosene and set them on fire. Mama takes the children to visit the Berryís as an explanation of why they are not to go to the Wallace store.
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Ruff, Dr. Karen. "TheBestNotes on Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry".
. 12 May 2008