Family History and Self-Perceptions Term Paper

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Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry -- Hearing the Power of Slave Stories

The need for story telling and the power of memories long past, even the historical past can provide a source of strength for the next generation. This idea is a central theme of the book by Mildred D. Taylor entitled Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. The past generation of African-American parents and grandparents, as embodied by the elders of the Logan family, wish to convey to the next generation the struggles and heartache of the previous generations of African-Americans. They do not simply tell their own stories to give the children spirit and strength to carry on and fight for freedom under difficult circumstances in the 1930's Depression-era South. They also tell stories given to them from earlier generations about slavery, creating a history and a continuity of stories to empower generation after generation of African-American children.

The older generations, for example, want to convey with truthfulness the strength and desire for freedom that was felt in the hearts of all slaves, despite the lies of whites.
Mama Logan remarks that although the white slave owners tried to use Christianity to instill obedience in to slaves, that did not make slaves "stop wanting to be free, and many slaves ran away." (127) This illustrates that what whites always say is not always true. When Cassie remarks "Papa Luke ran away,'" she reminds her mother not of something that happened in the recent past, but a tale from her historical and familial past that is so familiar, she remembers it as if it were yesterday. "I reminded her, thinking of the story of how Great-Grandpa had run away three times. He had been caught and punished for his disobedience,"(128) but still he persevered. Cassie feels a stake in holding up a family tradition and an African-American tradition of resistance, upon hearing this story, all at once.

The fortitude of the Great-Grandpa under such difficult circumstances provides a template for the next generation's own behavior, when faced with oppression in the South. Another interesting aspect of Mama's story is that it is….....

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