Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:
Judging the Authenticity of Historical Fiction

Teacher Resources
Student Resources

Task & Product

Research Scenario

Book Cover

Historical fiction blends details from a specific time period in history with fictional elements to tell a compelling story. When the author depicts these historical details accurately, the story seems authentic, like it really could have happened. Use one of these resources to read about and discuss the definition and characteristics of authentic historical fiction:

Historical Fiction | What Kind of Story is Historical Fiction? | Historical Fiction Characteristics

The novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is a work of historical fiction about an African American family living in rural Mississippi in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. In this story, the Logan family experiences racism and injustice as they pursue their dream of owning and farming their own land.

At a time when memories of slavery lingered in the South, owning land represented independence for African Americans. Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were enacted. These laws gave former slaves the rights of full citizenship: they could vote, participate in the political process, own land, seek their own employment, and use public accommodations. However, new laws and social practices designed to suppress these rights were soon put in place. Legalized racial segregation and discrimination continued in the South until after the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950's.

To fully understand the historical context for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, you will need to develop some knowledge about the social, political, and economic conditions which affected African Americans in the South during the 1930's. You and your classmates will gather facts about these conditions through research in order to prepare for reading the novel and answering the essential question:

How authentic is Mildred D. Taylor's depiction of African American life in the South during the 1930's in the historical novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

* Authentic means "accurate in representation of the facts" or "reliable."

Task and Product

kkk with burning cross
Ku Klux Klan members burning a cross.
Source: Library of Congress



You will investigate one of these topics related to the historical context for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

1. Great Depression
2. Sharecropping
3. Jim Crow Laws
4. Ku Klux Klan
5. Lynching
6. Plessy v. Ferguson/"Separate but Equal"
7. Brown v. Board of Education
8. Mildred D. Taylor/Author Biography

After conducting individual research on your topic, you will collaborate with other students who researched the same topic to organize your research findings and create a presentation to share with classmates. Your group may use one of these presentation formats, as directed by your teacher:

  • Oral Report with Visuals - For class Jigsaw activity
  • Digital Presentation:
    • PowerPoint or Prezi - Multimedia presentation
    • Wiki Page - Interactive webpage
    • Museum Box - Virtual museum exhibit
    • Glogster - Interactive digital poster
    • Voice Thread - Collaborative multimedia slideshow

As you read the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, you will use your new knowledge about the historical context evaluate its authenticity.

Assessments

School Segregation
Black school in Mississippi, 1949.
Source: Library of Congress

These scoring tools may be used or adapted by your teacher to evaluate your research process, group work, presentation, and response to the essential question.

Research Process Assessments:

Group Collaboration Assessments:

Presentation Assessments:



Essential Question Final Assessment:

Questions

blacks and whites
Sharecroppers
Source: Library of Congress

Essential Question

How authentic is Mildred D. Taylor's depiction of African American life in the South during the 1930's in the historical novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

Research Questions
Click on your assigned topic for a list of research questions, and generate some additional questions of your own about the topic. Write all of your research questions on a sheet of paper or on separate Cornell Notes sheets, as directed by your teacher.

1. Great Depression
2. Sharecropping
3. Jim Crow Laws
4. Ku Klux Klan
5. Lynching
6. Plessy v. Ferguson/"Separate but Equal"
7. Brown v. Board of Education
8. Mildred D. Taylor/Author Biography

Gather and Sort

segregation sign
Typical sign of racial segregation.
Source: Library of Congress

Guidelines for gathering and sorting information:

  • Meet with your Expert Group members to review your research questions, identify keywords, and decide how your group will approach or divide the work.
  • Take notes and sort your research findings using Cornell Notes sheets, notecards, or another method suggested by your teacher.
  • Avoid plagiarism by quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing main ideas and key details from sources, and by citing your information sources in a Bibliography; use a citation guide or an online citation generator as recommended by your teacher or library media specialist.
  • Locate historical photographs or other primary-source media to illustrate the information you are gathering for your research presentation.
    • Avoid using images that may be too graphic or disturbing for your audience.
    • Save images or media files from online sources to your own H: drive or to a group projects folder on the Students drive, as directed by your teacher.
    • Cite sources for any digital images or media used in your presentation.

Gather information and media about your topic from a variety of sources on the Student Resource Page.

Organize

Protest
Prostest against school segregation.
Source: Library of Congress


Analyze your individual research notes to determine if you have enough meaningful information to contribute to your Expert Group.

  • Do your notes help to answer your research questions?
  • Are you missing any information?
  • Are there any irrelevant details which could be eliminated?

Collaborate with your Expert Group members to synthesize your ideas and create a presentation for sharing your new knowledge with the class.

  • Share notes to identify main ideas and key details and compose a summary of the group's findings. Record the group summary in the Research Facts column of this Analyzing Historical Fiction T-chart.
  • Review the media collected by your group members to select the images or media items which best illustrate the information in your topic summary.
  • Create a presentation as directed by your teacher:

If groups will be giving Oral Presentations with Visuals in a Jigsaw Activity:

  • Print out copies of your selected images for each group member to use when they present your topic summary to a Jigsaw Group.

If groups will be sharing Digital Presentations:

  • Use your topic summary and media and one these digital formats as directed by your teacher. Your teacher or libary media specialist will provide you with access and directions for using the digital tool:
    • Wiki Page: Publish your summary/media on a Wiki page about your topic.
    • Museum Box: Create a 1-2 cube virtual museum box with text and media.
    • Glogster: Create a Glog (interactive poster) with text and media.
    • Voice Thread: Create a collaborative multimedia slideshow.

Evaluate your group's presentation to determine if you are ready to share your new knowledge about your topic with classmates.

  • Is the information clear and well-organized? Is it interesting?
  • Will the visuals or other media you selected enhance your audience's understanding of the information?
  • Will your presentation help your classmates to answer the essential question?
  • Use the scoring tool for your presentation format to self-evaluate your work.
Conclusion

 

 

 

 





Colored Fountain in Baltimore

Presentation: As you read/view/listen to other groups' presentations, use separate copies of the Analyzing Historical Fiction T-chart to record notes in the Research Facts column about each of the other topics.

  • For Oral Presentations with Visuals for a Jigsaw Activity:
    • Use your Expert Group summary and visuals to present information about your topic to a Jigsaw Group of students who researched different topics.
  • For Digital Presentations:
    • Your teacher will provide directions for accessing other groups' presentations in the computer lab.

Reflection: Click the book cover on the left to preview the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by examining the front cover illustration and reading the back cover and first pages. What topics or facts from the historical background research presentations are reflected here?

Extension/Application: As you read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, note how Mildred Taylor used historical and biographical details to develop her story.

  • During reading:
  • After reading:
    • Compare the historical and biographical Research Facts with details from your reading in the Novel Notes on your T-charts to write a BCR answering the essential question:
How authentic is Mildred D. Taylor's depiction of African American life in the South during the 1930's in the historical novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

Enrichment: