To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee
Author’s Notes • Nelle Harper Less was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroe Alabama. • She was the youngest of four children • Father was Amasa Coleman Lee, a lawyer. Mother was Frances (Finch) Lee • One of her childhood friends was Truman Capote. She lived next door to him from 1928-1933. • Truman Capote is said to be the fictitious character, Dill in her novel.
Author’s Notes Continued • Harper Lee graduated high school and attended Huntingdon College, a private school for women in Montgomery, for a year (1944-45) prior to transferring to the University of Alabama. • In 1947 she enrolled in the university’s law school, later spending a year as an exchange student at Oxford University.
Author’s Notes Continued • She withdrew in 1949, six months before she would have received her law degree and moved to New York City to pursue a writing career. • Lee had begun writing at the age of seven, and she had also written a variety of satires, reviews and columns during her years at college.
Author’s Notes Continued • In New York, Lee worked for the airlines. During this time she wrote several essays and short stories, none that were ever published. • An agent encouraged her to expand one of her short stories. Receiving financial support from her friends, she quit the airlines and spent her time writing To Kill a Mockingbird, the only book that Lee ever published. • Her father was ill during the time she wrote the book, spending most of her energies traveling from NY to Monroeville.
Author’s Notes Continued • Although the novel is not a strictly autobiographical account of her childhood, Lee certainly has drawn from those experiences as a basis of setting, plot, characters, and themes of her work
Scottsboro Influence • In 1931 the Scottsboro incident occurred in which nine black youths were arrested on the charge of raping two white women while riding on a freight train near the town in Scottsboro, Alabama. • After several sets of trials from 1931 to 1936, in which some youths were sentenced to death, the case finally ended with several defendants given long prison terms and others being released. • Only much later was it discovered that the women fabricated the whole story.
Little Rock Crisis • On September 4, 1957 Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to prevent nine Negro students from enrolling in previously all Central High School • After trying for eighteen days to persuade Orval Faubus to obey the ruling of the Supreme Court, Eisenhower decided to order paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division, to protect black children going to Little Rock Central High School. The white population of Little Rock were furious that they were being forced to integrate their school and Faubus described the federal troops as an army of occupation.
Little Rock Crisis • Elizabeth Eckford and the other eight African American students that entered the school (Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Ernest Green, Terrance Roberts, Gloria Ray and Minnijean Brown) suffered physical violence and constant racial abuse. Parents of four of the children lost their jobs because they had insisted in sending them to a white school. Woodrow Mann and his family received death threats and Klu Klux Klan crosses were burnt on his front lawn. • The federal troops left at the end of November and the first black student graduated from Central High School in May 1958.
Important Dates • 1866 - 14th amendment grants African Americans citizenship. Civil Rights act passed by government. • 1879 - Edison invents the light bulb (or was it Equality?) • 1886 - Statue of Liberty unveiled • 1914 - National average wage is $2.40 per day • 1915 - Ford produces its one millionth car • 1917 - US enters World War I • 1918 - World War ends
More Important Dates • 1929 - Wall street crash marks start of the Great Depression • 1938 - Ten Million Americans are unemployed • 1940 - Color television is presented to the American public • 1941 - US enters World War II • 1954 - United States Supreme Court rules in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that racial segregation in the public schools is inherently unequal and, therefore, illegal. • 1955 - Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of the bus • 1964 - Civil Rights Act outlawed segregation in the US schools and public places
Racial Segregation Racial segregation characterized by separation of different races in daily life, such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a rest room, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home. Segregation may be mandated by law or exist through social norms. Segregation may be maintained by means ranging from discrimination in hiring and in the rental and sale of housing to certain races to vigilante violence such as lynching; a situation that arises when members of different races mutually prefer to associate and do business with members of their own race would usually be described as separation or de facto separation of the races rather than segregation. Legal segregation in both South Africa and the U.S. was required and came with "anti-miscegenation laws" (prohibitions against interracial marriage) and laws against hiring people of the race that is the object of discrimination in any but menial positions.
Racial Segregation Segregation in hiring practices contributes to economic imbalance between the races. Segregation, however, often allowed close contact in hierarchical situations, such as allowing a person of one race to work as a servant for a member of another race. Segregation can involve spatial separation of the races, and/or mandatory use of different institutions, such as schools and hospitals by people of different races.
To Kill A Mockingbird • 1960 - Publication of To Kill A Mockingbird in the Fall (Shoots to top of NY Times Best Seller list) • Lee's book was published in a time of tumultuous events and racial strife as the struggle in the Civil Rights movement grew violent and spread into cities across the nation, and into the American consciousness on TV screens and the nightly news. • 1961 - ToKill A Mockingbird, is released; the screen adaptation by Horton Foote receives 5 Academy Award nominations.
Harper Lee's Childhood Grew up in 1930s - rural southern Alabama town Father - Amasa Lee - attorney who served in state legislature in Alabama Older brother and young neighbor (Truman Capote) are playmates Harper Lee - an avid reader Six years old when Scottsboro trials were meticulously covered in state and local newspapers Scout Finch's Childhood Grew up in 1930s - rural southern Alabama town Father - Atticus Finch - attorney who served in state legislature in Alabama Older brother and young neighbor (Dill) are playmates Scout reads before she enters school; reads Mobile Register newspaper in first grade Six years old when the trial of Tom Robinson takes place Parallels
The Scottsboro Trials Took place in the 1930s Took place in northern Alabama Began with a charge of rape made by white women against African American men The poor white status of the accusers was a critical issue. A central figure was a heroic judge, a member of the Alabama Bar who overturned a guilty jury verdict against African American men. This judge went against public sentiment in trying to protect the rights of the African American defendants. The first juries failed to include any African Americans, a situation which caused the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the guilty verdict. The jury ignored evidence, for example, that the women suffered no injuries. Attitudes about Southern women and poor whites complicated the trial. Tom Robinson's Trial Occurs in the 1930s Takes place in southern Alabama Begins with a charge of rape made by a white woman against an African American man The poor white status of Mayella is a critical issue. A central figure is Atticus, lawyer, legislator and member of the Alabama Bar, who defends an African American man. Atticus arouses anger in the communtiy in trying to defend Tom Robinson. The verdict is rendered by a jury of poor white residents of Old Sarum. The jury ignores evidence, for example, that Tom has a useless left arm. Trials Parallel