Read Let the Circle Be Unbroken Online
Authors: Mildred D. Taylor
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #People & Places, #United States, #General, #Fiction
LET THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN
“Miss Taylor conveys the textures of life among black as well as white and writes not with rancor or bitterness over indignities but with pride, strength, and respect for humanity.”
The New York Times
“A vivid, complex, carefully crafted, moving novel.”
Children’s Book Review Service
“This is fine writing, and readers will be moved by the intense drama of individual scenes and by their historical significance.”
School Library Journal
“The fear, cruelty, and the bewildering injustice of a hopelessly racist society are transcended by a family’s strength, self-respect, and determination. The characters, both young and old, in all their variety and individuality come alive with penetrating humanness, while the effect of the storytelling is intensified by a lean, understated style and made more poignant by touches of lyrical sensitivity.”
The Horn Book
Mildred D. Taylor
Let the Circle Be
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
From the author
I gratefully thank Mr. James E. Taylor, Mr. Eugene Taylor,
Mr. Norman Early, Mr. David E. Conrad, Mr. Peter Ramig,
Mrs. Lorraine Ramig, and the many others
who advised me on this book.
Published by the Penguin Group
Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by Dial Books, 1981
Published in Puffin Books, 1991
Copyright © Mildred Taylor, 1981
All rights reserved
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 91-53030
Except in the United Sates of America, this book is sold subject to the
condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior
consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is
published and without a similar condition including this condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
To the memory of my beloved father,
who lived many adventures of the boy Stacey
and who was in essence the man David . . .
this is his legacy
I will continue the Logans’ story with the same life guides that have always been mine, for it is my hope that these books, one of the first chronicles to mirror a black child’s hopes and fears from childhood innocence to awareness to bitterness and disillusionment, will one day be instrumental in teaching children of all colors the tremendous influence that Cassie’s generation—my father’s generation—had in bringing about the great Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties. Without understanding that generation and what it and the generations before it endured, children of today and of the future cannot understand or cherish the precious rights of equality which they now possess, both in the North and in the South. If they can identify with the Logans, who are representative not only of my family but of the many black families who faced adversity and survived, and understand the principles by which they lived, then perhaps they can better understand and respect themselves and others.
Mildred D. Taylor
from her Newbery Award
acceptance speech, 1977
“Ain’t that Wordell?”
Papa and the boys peered out into the deepening shadows as a slight figure slipped from the dense forest on our right and across the defile to the hardness of the red road and vanished into the trees on the other side. My eldest brother, Stacey, sat beside Papa on the wagon seat; Christopher-John and Little Man were in the back of the wagon with me.
“Could’ve been, Cassie,” Papa said, slapping the reins lightly across the mule’s back, urging him on, for the November light was slowly failing and we had one more stop to make before we went home. Already we had passed the Morgan place, or at least what used to be the Morgan place
but which was now government land like so many other farms taken for taxes by the state of Mississippi in the four years since 1930. We had passed as well the Great Faith school and church grounds with its semicircle of five fragile looking, weather-beaten buildings on skinny brick feet. Now we were approaching the Granger plantation, which sprawled southward, northward, and westward for some 6,000 acres, almost ten square miles. Up ahead the Silas Lanier house, standing unpainted and gray in the midst of the drying cotton stalks, marked the beginning of it. Past the Laniers were the Mason Shorters, and across from them, tucked behind a growth of untrimmed bushes and second-growth trees, were the Page Ellises and their aunt, Mrs. Lee Annie Lees.
At the rutted, narrow trail leading to the Ellises Papa pulled up short on Jack’s reins, turning the wagon inward. Going up the trail, we entered a clearing where two tenant shacks, one belonging to the Ellises and the other to Mrs. Lee Annie and her grandson, Wordell, stood catercorner to each other. Sitting barefoot on the porch of the Ellis house were two of the Ellis boys, Son-Boy and Don Lee. With them were Little Willie Wiggins, one of Stacey’s best friends and a fellow eighth grader, and his brother Maynard.
“How y’all young folks doing?” Papa asked as we stepped down from the wagon. Papa was a tall, pecan-brown-skinned man with both a reputation and a bearing that commanded respect; all four boys stood to greet him.
“Jus’ fine, Mr. Logan,” they answered. “How you?”
“Doin’ right well.” Papa shook hands with each of the boys as if they were men and looked around. “Where’s everybody?”
Son-Boy nodded toward the backyard. “Mama and Papa, they’s ’round back. Aunt Lee Annie too. They tendin’ to that ole mule of ours. Down with the colic again.”
“They’s ’fraid he ain’t gon’ make it this time,” put in Don Lee, the younger of the two.
“That’s a shame,” said Papa. “Guess I’ll just go on back and see if there’s anything I can do.”
We watched Papa go between the two houses toward the barn, then settled on the porch. “How long y’all been here?” Stacey asked of Little Willie, beside him on the steps. “We jus’ stopped by y’all’s house and your mama said you and Maynard and Clarice had done gone up to the Averys.”
Little Willie nodded. “Mama had some milk and preserves and stuff she wanted ’em to have. We was on our way back home, but Clarice claimed she jus’ had to stop by here a minute and see Thelma.”
“Shoot! The way ole Thelma talk,” said Son-Boy of his older sister, “y’all be lucky to get ’way from here ’fore nightfall.”
“I tell ya, Stacey, women!” sighed Little Willie. “Talkin’ ’bout a minute and here it been a good half hour already.”
“Ain’t that the way,” Stacey said, like he knew what the way was.
“Aw, man, you don’t know nothin’ yet. Jus’ wait till Cassie there get older.”
“Now jus’ how my name get into this?” I demanded from the porch rail. “I’m jus’ sitting here minding my own business, ain’t done nothin’!”
Little Willie slid a sly glance my way. “But you will.”
I scowled down at him. “And jus’ what I’m gonna do?”
“Jus’ wait. You’ll find out.”
“How was everybody at the Averys?” said Stacey, cutting me off, an irritating habit he had recently picked up.
Little Willie leaned back on the steps, his elbows supporting
him, and shrugged. “’Bout the same. Ain’t none of ’em looking too perky.”
“You had a brother down in jail, I don’t much ’spect you’d be looking too perky either,” I pointed out.
He glanced back at me and grinned in agreement. “You sho’ ’nough right ’bout that, Cassie. Don’t ’spect I would.”
“They had any news?” asked Stacey. “’Bout a trial, I mean.”
“Well, to tell the truth, they ain’t said nothin’ and I ain’t asked . . . ain’t thought I oughta.”
Stacey let out a labored sigh. “Lord, I hate this. Who’d’ve thought jus’ a year ago . . . who’d’ve thought . . .”
All of us pondered his words in the late afternoon silence. Then Son-Boy shouted, “Hey, Dubé! Dubé Cross!”
We looked out past the wagon to the trail, where a tall, muscular boy had just entered the yard. Sixteen years old, Dubé Cross looked more like a man than a boy; yet despite his size, he was just in the fifth grade. Barefooted, he crossed the yard in a rudely patched pair of pants that were too short and a mended shirt that was too small and greeted us in the stutter that was natural to him. Then he turned to Stacey. “I-I-I was j-j-jus’ on my way dddd-down to y’all’s place when I s-s-seen y’all turn in. Mama need m-milk for the younguns and I was j-j-jus’ won-d-d-derin’ if y’all had w-work.”
“Dubé,” I said, “Big Ma say y’all can jus’ have that milk—”
Stacey cut me off. Again. “Well, ain’t got no work we don’t ’tend to ourselves, but ya wanna come milk in the morning, I’d ’spect Papa’d consider that payment enough.”
“But that’s our job,” spoke up Little Man, who took everything he considered his quite seriously. Christopher-John,
a round boy with a bit more tact, gave Little Man a sharp nudge in the ribs and he grew silent.
“W-w-well, w-we’d be obliged to y’all.”
“Y’all’s welcome to the milk, ya know that,” Stacey assured him. “Fact to business, y’all be doin’ us a favor y’all take it. With times like they are, it don’t hardly pay to take it into town. Can’t get nothin’ much for it. Jus’ have to give it to the hogs to keep it from goin’ to waste.”
Dubé nodded, accepting Stacey’s words somewhat awkwardly. He was a proud boy, and despite our willingness for his and other families who had no milking cows to have the milk we didn’t need, I sometimes felt that Dubé was ashamed to ask for it. He did though, mainly because he considered himself the man of his house. Living with his mother and an assortment of younger brothers and sisters in a one-room, tar-papered shack along the row on Soldiers Road, Dubé had for years helped his mother take care of the fatherless family. But for all he did, things were still bad for the Crosses. Like others along the row, the Crosses had no land, rented or otherwise, to till. They were day laborers who picked cotton for wages, and day laborers were the least paid and the worst treated of the farming community. For them life was even harder than it was for the rest of us.
“Why don’t you come on back with us?” Stacey suggested to him. “We’ll be heading home directly, and there’s plenty of milk fresh in the pantry from this morning y’all can have for supper.”