Mildred D. Taylor’s “Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry” is set during the Great Depression, in the rural areas of Mississippi. The majority of the people in this community are sharecroppers, who are greatly dependent on plantation farming. The Logan family is fortunate because they have a piece of land of their own, so unlike other black sharecroppers they do not have to be dependent on the whites. However, due to the sharp decrease in the price of the cotton crop the family have to work hard to keep it in their hands, whilst also providing food in order for them to survive. The situation is further worsened because of the severity of racism and segregation in the society. The Logans are one of the few families who own land and this causes resentment from the whites whose beliefs are that black people are inferior and the whites must maintain their supremacy. David Logan and Uncle Hammer both believe that prejudice must be stopped, yet the ways in which they fight against it differ greatly. Papa prefers to act non-violently and to work within the system. He does so by concentrating on paying off the mortgage of the land so that his family will be on an equal par with the whites and have self-respect. He modifies his behaviour and considers things carefully in order not to jeopardise the land and the safety of his family. Hammer on the other hand has left Mississippi to get away from the prejudice, but once confronted with it again; he reacts violently and impulsively. Being a single person he puts his sense of injustice before concern about repercussions against the family.
Papa works on the railroads in order to support his family and the land, so as a result he only returns to Mississippi during the wintertime. Unlike Papa, Uncle Hammer does not live with the family. He is not married and lives in Chicago where segregation is less severe, and thus has the opportunity to earn a good salary. When he visits the Logan family during the Christmas season “Uncle Hammer wore, as he had everyday since he had arrived, sharply creased pants, a vest over a snow-white shirt and shoes that shone like midnight.” This shows that he is not afraid to flaunt his wealth, which in turn provokes the whites. His aim is to show them that black people can be as equally successful. Also the black community admire him for his achievements, “Uncle Hammer stepped out of his car and someone cried, “Well, I’ll be doggone! It’s our Hammer! Hammer Logan!” And in a body, the crowd engulfed us.” His obvious professional success and his wealth also gives them hope, and a goal to work towards despite the hard times and their general lack of opportunity.
The ways Uncle Hammer and Papa deal with situations are very different because of the amount of self-control that they have. Whenever a white person does something that degrades the black people, Uncle Hammer spontaneously seeks revenge without thinking about the consequences of his actions. For example, when he hears that Cassie had been pushed into the road by Mr Simms while visiting Strawberry, he immediately reaches for his gun and heads for the door to the Simmses’. “Then he stood slowly, his eyes icing into the distant way they could, and he started toward the door, limping slightly on his left leg.” “Don’t worry. I ain’t gonna use David’s gun . . . I’ve got my own.” Hammer is impetuous with a quick temper that means he often acts without thinking things through.
Papa does not like Uncle Hammer’s hot temper. He tells Cassie, “you got yourself a bad temper like your Uncle Hammer. That temper can get you into trouble.” Uncle Hammer’s way of handling situations, using...