Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Study Guide

Mildred D. Taylor

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Chapter 6 | Summary



The wagon ride home is silent. No one feels like talking. When they get home, Stacey tells Cassie not to blame Big Ma for what she did, because she had to do it. They're arguing when Stacey realizes there's a car in their garage. Cassie thinks it is Mr. Granger's Packard, but when she follows Stacey into the house, she sees their Uncle Hammer, their father's brother. Hammer is older than their father by two years, tall, and handsome. He owns the fine car.

Everyone gathers around to listen to Uncle Hammer talk to Big Ma and Mama. After a while, he starts involving the children in the conversation. He asks Cassie about her "first trip to Strawberry." She tells him she didn't like it and relates the encounter with the Simms family. Uncle Hammer laughs at what she said to Mr. Barnett but gets angry at how Mr. Simms forced Cassie off the sidewalk. Hammer and Big Ma argue over the forced apology and how to act in that sort of situation. Mama sends Stacey to get Mr. Morrison, to restrain Hammer and prevent any violent actions. Mama pleads with Hammer not to make any "unnecessary trouble." He explodes at her and at the situation in which white men can treat African American children this way. Then he leaves. As he drives away, Mr. Morrison jumps in the car. The family talks about what will happen and what the day's encounter means. This leads to Mama explaining the history of race relations and how "black people" were brought from Africa to work as slaves. She sketches the facts: how race shapes attitudes and why it is important for Mr. Simms to believe "he's important, simply because he's white." The talk ends with Mama predicting Uncle Hammer will be OK.

When Cassie gets up, she finds her uncle and Mr. Morrison at the table. As they get ready for the day, the kids speculate about what happened. Stacey shares he had heard Mama say if Mr. Morrison hadn't stopped Uncle Hammer, he might have gotten killed. That talk can't go any further because Big Ma and Mama come in, followed by Uncle Hammer. When he sees how badly Stacey's coat fits him, Hammer gets out a Christmas present and gives it to Stacey. It is a nice new coat. The family then goes to church, where people are happy to greet Hammer. T.J. teases Stacey about the new coat, saying it makes him look like a "fat preacher." After church, Hammer takes them all for a ride in his car. The kids love it, but when they pass the Wallace store, it turns Hammer's mood dark again. The car reaches Soldiers Bridge, which predates the Civil War and is only wide enough for one car to pass at a time. The rule is whoever is on the bridge first has the right of way. However, in practice white drivers have the right of way, forcing black drivers to back up. This time, though, even though a white family in a truck is already on the bridge, Hammer drives quickly onto the bridge. The truck driver thinks it is Mr. Granger in the car and backs up, giving Hammer the right of way. This pleases Hammer and the children laugh, but Mama predicts they'll have to pay for that small victory someday.


Besides efficiency, one of Taylor's great gifts as a writer is showing how interconnected everything is in this time and world. No action happens in isolation. All actions generate larger repercussions. Children throughout the world bump into one another and must determine how to best follow up on those interactions. Cassie's encounter with Lillian Jean is different. It leads to a discussion with Mama about how the world works and the nature of racism. It also leads to a potentially explosive situation. It is a situation in which Uncle Hammer might well have gotten killed or ended up killing someone himself in his anger over how Cassie was treated. It also leads to something more complex: conflicts within the family over how best to address the racism oppressing all of them. Some of this is generational. As strong and proud a woman as Big Ma is, she cringes before the Simmses' social power, almost without thought. It is a tactic that works for her. Cassie, on the other hand, tries logic and arguments about fair treatment, which fail completely. Hammer would try a third path: violence.

Soldiers Bridge offers another quiet reminder of the heavy weight of history in this novel. The Logan family cannot just travel from place to place; they are also traveling through history. The actual encounter at Soldiers Bridge illustrates another aspect of race relations at the time—Jim Crow customs in action. Legally, the first driver to the bridge has the right of way. In reality community norms trump this, giving whites the right of way. When the white drivers back off the bridge, it is a symbolic victory because Hammer made them "back down" the way Mr. Simms made Cassie and Big Ma do earlier in the day.

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