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To Kill a Mockingbird Historical Background

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by

Greig Thomson

on 1 June 2015

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Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird Historical Background

1920
1930
1960
1865
1955
To Kill a Mockingbird
Historical Setting

America in the 1930s
Great Depression

Segregation and racism

Jim Crow Laws

Scottsboro Boys Trial

Set in Alabama (Southern America)
The Origins of the Great Depression
During World War I, federal spending grows three times larger than tax collections. When the government cuts back spending to balance the budget in 1920, a severe recession results.

Some manufacturing profits

Late in the 1920s there is an artificial 'boom'; stock prises rise an average of 40%

More than half of all Americans by 1930 are living below a minimum subsistence level
Key Events of the Great Depression
1929: Stock market crash begins October 24. Investors call October 29 Black Tuesday. Losses for the month will total $16 billion, an astronomical sum in those days

1930: The unemployment rate climbs from 3.2 to 8.7 percent
1931: unemployment rises to 15.9 percent
1932 and 1933: The worst years of the depression. Industrial stocks have lost 80 percent of their value since 1930, Over 13 million Americans have lost their jobs since 1929

The Top tax rate is raised from 25 to 63 percent in 1932 and then to 79% by 1936

1939-1941: WWII revitalises American manufacturing. The Japanese attack Pearl Harbour and America enter WWII.
Segregation and Racism
1865: The North won the American Civil War and slavery was abolished. However racial divisions were still evident everywhere, particularly in the South.

By 1900, new laws and old customs in the North and the South had created a segregated society

Beginning in the 1890s, southern states enacted literacy tests, poll taxes, elaborate registration systems, and eventually whites-only Democratic Party primaries to exclude black voters.

Klu Klux Lan established in the 1860s and is still active
Lynchings and race related violence
Restricted rights for real estate
Separate and unequal education
African Americans saw the Courts (especially the Supreme Court) as their only avenue to equality and justice



Jim Crow Laws
"Jim Crow" has its origins in the minstrel song "Jump Jim Crow", written in 1828 by Thomas Rice. Rice, a White man, painted his face black and presented a caricature of a poor rural Black man.
"Jim Crow" became the term for racial segregation
Some of the Jim Crow laws in Alabama included:

Restaurants forbidden to serve Whites and Blacks in the same room, unless a seven-foot (2.1 metres) or higher barrier had been installed.

Blacks and Whites forbidden to play billiards together.

Separate toilets and drinking fountains.

White nurses not required to attend to Black men in hospitals.

Separate ticket booths and waiting rooms at train stations, separate carriages on trains.
Scottsboro Boys Trial
1931: Nine black youths got involved in a fight on a train with a group of unemployed white boys

The train stopped in Scottsboro, Alabama and authorities were notified

Two white women dressed as boys were found hiding on the train. They were working as prostitutes and had slept with some of the white men on the train.

To avoid a conviction for conducting imoral business whilst, traveling across state lines the two women accuse the black youths of raping them

The nine youths are given a trial (one day long), are convicted of rape and sentenced to death.

The North was outraged and a legal battle ensued.
The final member of the Scottsboro Boys was released and pardoned 18 years later






Harper Lee and the 1960s
Civil Rights Movement

1955: Rosa Parks
1956: Integration of the Alabama University
1960: To Kill a Mockingbird published
1963: Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' speech
1965: Voting Rights Act of 1965
1968: Martin Luther King Assassinated
Full transcript