Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry tells the story of the Logan family combating racial tension and segregation in Mississippi during the Jim Crow Era.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text “The Great Depression,” Jessica McBirney discusses the various causes and effects of the Great Depression, as well as how America’s economy eventually recovered.
Have students read this text before reading the novel as historical background on how the Great Depression affected the economy of the U.S. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “An Overview of The Great Depression” and ask students to consider the economic hardships of the 1930s in order to understand the struggles of the characters in this novel.
This informational text details the controversial policies of Reconstruction after the American Civil War.
Introduce this text before reading the novel so students understand the historical context of Reconstruction and how this point in American history impacts the setting of the story. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “Reconstruction,” and ask students to analyze the social climate of southern states like Mississippi. How did southern whites react to the emancipation of enslaved people? What effect did this reaction have on people during the time period?
This NPR interview, broadcast 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, discusses the necessity of integration in our modern society, and what remains to be done to improve the state of American education.
Have students read this text after reading Chapter 1, when Cassie describes the school segregation in her community. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “Does It Matter If Schools Are Racially Integrated?” and ask students to discuss the developments toward racial equality since the Great Depression. What social changes have been implemented since the Great Depression? Has the Brown v. Board of Education ruling been an effective development toward racial equality?
In “The Scottsboro Boys,” Jessica McBirney discusses the historic event in which nine black boys were wrongfully accused and convicted of assault.
Have students read this text after reading Chapter 2, in which a group of white men violently attack a group of Black men after alleging that one of the Black men disrespected a white woman. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “The Scottsboro Boys” and have students discuss the relationships between the justice system and African Americans in both historical time periods.
The informational text “From Slaves to Sharecroppers" describes the sharecropping system that emerged after the end of slavery in the United States.
Have students read this text before reading Chapter 4, in which the Black characters are indebted to white landowners because of the manipulation of post-slavery sharecroppers. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “From Slaves to Sharecroppers” and ask students to compare and contrast the conditions of slavery and the conditions of sharecropping. Ask students to analyze how credit and debt were used to control African Americans.
In the informational text “Financial Literacy,” Jessica McBirney explores the various choices a person can make with their money.
Have students read this text before reading Chapter 4, in which the Logans discuss shopping in Vicksburg with their sharecropping community members. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “Financial Literacy” to provide students with an understanding of much of the financial terminology used in the chapter: credit, interest, and debt. As students read the conversation between Ms. Logan and Moe Turner at end of the chapter, instruct students to apply their new understandings of credit, interest, and debt to the Turner’s situation. What makes it difficult for the Turners to stop shopping at the Wallace store and start shopping in Vicksburg?
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an influential African American poet, the son of freed slaves, and friend of Frederick Douglass. In “We Wear the Mask,” Dunbar introduces the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.
Have students read this poem after reading Chapter 5 when Big Ma forces Cassie to apologize to Lillian Jean. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “We Wear the Mask,” and ask students to analyze Dunbar’s claim that African Americans have to mask the pain of oppression in order to survive in the context of the events of the chapter. To what extent do the events of Chapter 5 support or dispute the theme of Dunbar’s poem?
In “Excerpt from Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases,” historical activist Ida B. Wells discusses the injustice and horrors of Southern lynch laws, focusing on the violence against African Americans following the Civil War.
Have students read this text after reading Chapter 11 when the Wallaces, the Simmses, and other white men threaten to lynch T.J. Pair Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with “Excerpt from Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases,” and ask students to analyze how the act of lynching was used as a means to control African Americans. How does the historical information presented in the text inform the setting of the novel?