The story is centered on the Logan family, specifically Cassie Logan, and deals with the years changing and the kids' coming of age.
Tropes present in this work:
- Big Eater: Christopher John loves food and always complains about being hungry.
- Break the Cutie: Cassie gradually gets exposed to the horrors of racism and loses her innocence because of it.
- Bump into Confrontation: When Cassie accidentally bumps into Lillian Jean.
- Downer Ending: The Logans stop the lynching, but only by setting their own fields on fire, and T.J. has next to no hope of escaping the death penalty. Indeed, in the sequel Let The Circle Be Unbroken, it takes the all-white jury less than half an hour to convict him, and he is sentenced to death.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Mr. Morrison and the Logans. Mr. Jamison, too. He's known Big Ma since he was a small child and tries to do his best to protect the family.
- Jerkass: T.J. He has no problem getting his brother, or Stacey, in trouble.
- Karma Houdini: The Simms and basically every other white person in the story gets away with racism, attempted murder, and actual murder in the case of RW and Melvin.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Even the teachers at their school refer to Little Man almost exclusively as such. People only address him by his real name, Clayton Chester, when they mean serious business, according to Cassie.
- Lifesaving Misfortune: In Mississippi Bridge, a bus driver kicks several black passengers, including Big Ma, off a bus to make room for late-arriving white passengers. The bus ends up skidding off a bridge and into a swollen river, killing everyone aboard.
- Serious Business: Little Man's insistence that his clothes be clean at all times.
- The Smurfette Principle: Cassie is the only daughter in the Logan family.
- Title Drop: Late in the storyRoll of thunder, hear my cry,Over the water, by and byOld man comin' down the line, whip in hand to beat me down,But I ain't gonna let him turn me 'round.
- Trapped in a Sinking Car: In the climax of Mississippi Bridge, a bus skids off the eponymous bridge and plunges into the river below. The only survivors are the African-American passengers who were forced off the bus before it departed.