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Authors: Mildred D. Taylor

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #People & Places, #United States, #African American, #Social Issues

The Road to Memphis

BOOK: The Road to Memphis
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Road to Memphis
, Mildred Taylor continues the moving saga of the Logan family, begun with the award-winning
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Let the Circle Be Unbroken

“Mildred D. Taylor’s novels about the Logan family have been hugely popular for two good reasons: They bring alive a fragment of the history of black life in the Deep South . . . [and] paint an appealingly detailed picture of the warm family relations and the embracing communal spirit to remind us that black life, day to day, however troubled, is not the disaster it looks like when it is simplified by sociology. There is pleasure, dignity, and palpable pride in Great Faith, near Strawberry, Miss., where the Logans are landowners with a fierce attachment to their own soil.”

The New York Times

“A powerful . . . picture of the racist menace in pre-civil rights days.”


“Powerful, readable, and fast-moving.”


“An enlightening, moving novel.”

Publishers Weekly

Books by

Song of the Trees

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Let the Circle Be Unbroken

The Gold Cadillac

The Friendship

The Road to Memphis

Mildred D. Taylor

The Road to Memphis



Published by the Penguin Group

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,

a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 1990

Published in Puffin Books, 1992

Copyright © Mildred D. Taylor, 1990

All rights reserved


Taylor, Mildred D.

The road to Memphis / by Mildred D. Taylor.      p. cm.

Summary: In 1941 a black youth, sadistically teased by two white boys in rural Mississippi, severely injures one of them with a tire iron and enlists Cassie’s help in trying to flee the state.

ISBN: 978-1-101-65798-0

[1. Race relations—Fiction.   2. Prejudices—Fiction.   3. Afro-Americans—Fiction.   4. Mississippi—Fiction.]   I. Title.

[PZ7.T21723Rm    1992]    [Fic]—dc20     92-6051

Except in the United States 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.

This book is dedicated
to the memory of my beloved father
who lived many adventures of the boy, Stacey, and
who was in essence the man, David
This book is also dedicated to my uncle
Mr. James Edward Taylor
who has always been like a second father
who has always encouraged me
and since the death of my father
has been my greatest resource in the writing of
my books about the South and the Logan family


Author’s Note

A Fine New Car


The Hunt

Down Home Farewell

Incident in Strawberry

Escape From Jackson

The Road to Memphis

The Memphis Prince

A Final Farewell

Author’s Note

I am indebted to many people for their generosity of time and expertise in my writing of
The Road to Memphis
. I thank Mr. Don Nodtvedt for allowing me to view his splendid 1937 Ford firsthand and for answering so many questions about automobiles of the 1930s; Mr. and Mrs. Bob Sisemore for identifying the make and model of one of my father’s first cars from a family photograph; my cousin, Mr. Edwin Taylor, for doing the same; Mr. Ed Frank and Mrs. Bobbette Walker of the Mississippi Valley Collection at Memphis State University for providing so many resources during my research visit to Memphis; Mr. Bruce Greene, a lawyer and friend, who checked all my legal references; and Mr. Norman Early, Jr., another
lawyer and friend, who has checked legal references for my other work. I am also deeply grateful to Ms. Janet Chenery, my editor at Dial Books; Mr. Skip Skwarek, General Manager at Dial; Ms. Phyllis Fogelman, President and Publisher of Dial; and Ms. Regina Hayes, editor of my first books about the Logan family.

As always in the writing of my books, my family has supported me in my efforts and have been invaluable resources. I am especially thankful to my uncle, Mr. James E. Taylor, who has provided so much encouragement and understanding. I am also thankful to his wife, my aunt, Mrs. Curtis Lee Taylor, and to my mother, Mrs. Deletha M. Taylor, and my sister, Ms. Wilma M. Taylor, without whose support I could not have gotten through the writing of this book or any other. I thank as well all the other members of my family who have contributed so much to my storytelling by relaying their memories of the South to me. Most of all, as in the writing of all my books about the Logan family, I am thankful and grateful to my father, the storyteller, for without his words my words would not have been.

M. D. T.

A Fine New Car

It was hot. Mississippi hot. Although it was October, the day was unusually muggy and sticky and everything seemed to sweat. Overhead the sky was thinly streaked in pale runner clouds that did nothing to block out the sun, and little stirred along the rusty roads and in the cotton fields. Most folks with good sense, and that included Christopher-John, Little Man, and me, had found themselves a shady spot and settled there. Sitting in the mule-hitched wagon under the wide-spreading branches of a white oak at the corner of Soldiers Bridge Crossroads, we were thankful for the shade as we waited for the bus from Jackson to arrive. We were waiting for our eldest brother, Stacey. He was supposed to be coming home today.

I glanced impatiently up the road. “Wonder what’s taking that bus so long?” Neither Christopher-John nor Little Man said a word, though I knew they were as tired of waiting as I was. Christopher-John, alone on the wagon seat, didn’t even bother to turn around and look at me. Little Man in back with me, both of us perched on the sideboard of the wagon for a better view of the road, didn’t look at me either. They both just kept gazing east, up the road. “Now, this is just ridiculous!” I grumbled. “Having to wait this long! Been here more than an hour. I could’ve been home. I got things to do!”

Christopher-John now glanced back. “You know, Cassie, bus most times is late.”

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t make it right!” I argued, knowing perfectly well that what he said was true. Still, what I said was true as well. The bus should have been here on time and I did have plenty of things to do and should have been home doing them After all, tomorrow when Stacey headed back to Jackson, I would be going with him, for I now attended school in Jackson and had been doing so for the last two years, since the fall of 1939. Actually, I should have already been in Jackson, for school there had started some weeks back, but just before I was to go, I had come down with what Big Ma called the walking pneumonia and I was only now feeling good enough to leave home. Once I got to Jackson, there would be a lot of school work for me to make up if I was going to be graduated at the end of the school year, and that had me worried a bit. I couldn’t afford to fail. Thinking on that, I snapped out another condemnation against the tardiness of the bus “Bus supposed to be here at a certain time, it ought to be here!”

Christopher-John, a stalwart-looking boy of fifteen, was not much one for arguing, especially not arguing some useless point. He just looked at me, shrugged, turned, and faced the road
again. I gazed at the road as well, hoping to see the rising dust and then the Jackson bus.

But the bus didn’t come.

I sighed and looked around. We sat at the northeastern corner of the crossroads just east of Soldiers Bridge that crossed the creek called the Little Rosa Lee. As on two of the other corners of the crossroads, forest land of white oaks and longleaf pines and bushes of heavily ladened hazelnut grew densely upon it. Across the road on the fourth corner of the crossroads stood the Wallace store, central to most of the community and frequented by most folks around. On this Saturday morning the store was doing slow business. There were only a pickup truck and a wagon parked in front of it. Several gray-board houses belonging to the Wallace clan stood behind the store, while in front was one lone gas pump. Standing under the shading of the porch, looking as if they were also waiting for the bus, were two ruddy-skinned men with traveling bags at their feet. They had been waiting as long as we had.

“I expect they’re tired of waiting too,” I surmised.

Little Man, also known as Clayton Chester, the name he more and more insisted upon being called these days, glanced over at the store; then he stood in the wagon and stretched. Little Man was a handsome boy of fourteen, slight—a bantamweight—with reddish-pecan brown skin like Papa’s and Indian-like hair combed straight back. He looked halfway cool despite the heat, but then again, he most times did look cool. He worked at it. “Maybe we should’ve gone to Strawberry and picked Stacey and them up,” he suggested.

“Would’ve taken us all morning in the wagon,” Christopher-John pointed out.

Little Man sat back down. “Too bad Papa didn’t get back with the truck. Couldn’ve driven it.”

I laughed. Strawberry was the nearest town, twenty some miles away, and the bus would be stopping there before coming here, but I knew that convenience wasn’t the only reason Little Man wanted to go to Strawberry. “Aw, you just want to get up to town and see that little ole girl live there you call yourself liking.”

Little Man grinned, not denying that was partly true. Little Man was becoming quite a ladies’ man. “Leastways we wouldn’t have to be waiting here.”

“Naw, we wouldn’t. We would just be sitting up there in Strawberry doing mostly the same thing.” I knocked away a fly buzzing annoyingly close to my face. “I tell you one thing. That bus doesn’t come on, I’m going back home.” Both Christopher-John and Little Man nodded as if that was to be expected and didn’t try to dissuade me. I wiped my brow with the back of my hand and grumbled on. But with neither of the boys paying attention now, I soon grew silent. I placed an elbow on each knee and propped my chin in my hands. A slight breeze stirred and my skirt, which had draped between my legs, billowed up. Irritated, I slapped the skirt downward. That was one of the things I hated about wearing skirts and dresses on a day like today when a body should have been in pants. A person couldn’t even sit the way one wanted in a skirt, but that made no difference to Mama and Big Ma, who forbade me to wear pants. They said pants weren’t ladylike. More than likely, they would have said the same about my sitting on the side of this wagon, but it seemed to me, nothing much I did these days was ladylike, now that I was seventeen. I sighed at the miseries of ladyhood.

BOOK: The Road to Memphis
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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