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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Historical Context for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Rachel Lawrence

on 30 April 2012

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Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird
Based on Harper Lee's experiences
The Story
Slavery and Racism
The Scottsboro Boys
by Harper Lee
Meet the Author
Harper Lee
Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, not unlike the novel's fictional setting of Maycomb.
She was born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926. She died February 19, 2016.
Lee's father was a small town lawyer and probably served as the model for the character of Atticus Finch.
The Lee family is descended from the Civil War hero, Robert E. Lee.
Nelle, her first name is her grandmother's name spelled backwards.
Her mother, Frances Cunningham Finch Lee, was a homemaker. Her father, Amasa Cole Lee, practiced law. Before A.C. Lee became a title lawyer, he once defended two black men accused of murdering a white storekeeper. Both clients, a father and son, were hanged.
As a child, Harper Lee was an unruly tomboy. She fought on the playground and talked back to teachers. she was bored with school and resisted any sort of conformity.
The character of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird would have liked her.
She had a gifted English teacher (like you do!) who introduced her to challenging literature and the rigors of writing well. Lee loved 19th century British authors best and once said that her ambition was to become the Jane Austen of South Alabama.
She went to the University of Alabama, and worked on the campus newspaper eventually becoming editor-in-chief.
She entered law school upon her father's request but hated it. Despite her father's hopes that she would become a local attorney like her sister, Alice, Lee went to New york instead to pursue her writings.
Harper Lee spent 8 years working odd jobs before she finally showed a manuscript to Tay Hohoff, an editor at J.B. Lippincott. At this point it still resembled a string of stories more than the novel that Lee had intended.
Under Hohoff's guidance, two and a half years of rewriting followed.
When the novel was ready for publication, the author opted for the name 'Harper Lee' on the cover because she didn't want to be misidentied as 'Nelle.'
Career Conti.
The novel was published in 1960 to highly favorable reviews and quickly climbed the bestseller lists where it remained for 88 weeks.
The novel was not only a commercial success; it also won the Pulitzer in 1961.
Fans asked for a second novel for years, eventually getting:
Go Set a Watchmen
, her second novel, published in July 15, 2015.
Lee later researched a book, similar to her friend Truman Capote's,
In Cold Blood
, about a part-time minister in Alexander City, Alabama, accused of killing five people for their insurance money and later himself. However, she dropped the project in the 1900s.
The movie version of TKAM was nominated for best picture, and won Gregory Peck a best actor award.
The Civil War
the North vs. the South
took place in 1861-1865
more than 600,000 Americans lost their lives
property damage was enormous, especially in the South
deep feelings of bitterness and resentment remained for decades
Abraham Lincoln was president during this time period and after the North won the war, Lincoln was able to pass the Emancipation Proclamation.
This was a document that freed the slaves.
This lead to the Reconstruction Era and the 13th Amendment
in the years 1865-1877 the Union restored relations with the Confederate states. This was called the Reconstruction Era.
The South lagged behind the rest of the nation, remaining an agricultural area.
The reconstruction governments were ineffective due to the lack of support of southern states.
The main reason for the lack of support was that the majority of southern whites could not accept former slaves voting and holding office.
Gradually, the North lost interest in reconstruction and in time southern white's regained control of their state governments.
President Johnson tried to regain some of these strongholds on ending the prejudice between people but making all southern states adopt a constitution (the 13th Amendment) that acknowledged the end of slavery.
13th Amendment
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
The purpose of this amendment and the Reconstruction was designed to grant freedom to and protect civil liberties of recently freed slaves.
However, these hopes for progress were slighted and the South eventually regained control.
Jim Crow Laws
Who is Jim Crow?
some say he was a slave from Cincinnati, Ohio
some say he was from Charleston, South Carolina
some say he derived from Old Man Crow, a slaveholder
some say that the Crow came from the simile, black as a crow
Whatever the case, by 1838, the term was wedged into the language as a synonym for Negro.
The law consists of legal and social restrictions
Southern state legislatures employed literacy tests as part of the voter registration process as early as the late 19th century.
The Great Depression
As if things weren't bad enough, on October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed.
This time period became known as the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century.
People across the country felt the effects. Personal income, tax revenue, profits, and prices dropped, and international trade plunged.
Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25% and in some countries as high as 33%.
Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by approx. 60%.
the great depression
The Scottsboro Boys were 9 black defendants in a 1931 Alabama rape case.
Nine young black male defendants (ages 13-19) were accused of raping two poor white runaway women on a freight train bound for Memphis.
All were quickly convicted in a mob atmosphere. The juries were entirely white and the defense attorneys had minimal experience in criminal law and no time to prepare their cases.
The Scottsboro Boys were on a train in hopes of finding work hauling logs on the Missouri River. Upon failing at any prospects of work, they hopped the next train home to Scottsboro.
There were women on the train, along with a few men from the same area, who were heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee to find work in the cotton mills.
The Story
A fight allegedly began when a white youth stepped on a Scottsboro boy's hand by accident. The fight involved name-calling, stone-throwing, and a few punches.
The stationmaster called the Jackson County sheriff and the train was stopped with a demand to "capture every negro" on board.
A posse of some 20 white men armed with shotguns, rifles and pistols prepared for the train's arrival. Within 10 minutes, they had arrested the black youths at gunpoint without question.
The initial arrest was for the assault and attempted murder of the white youths ejected from the train at Stevenson.
The posse then turned and found Ruby Bates and Victoria Price (the white women) on the train emerged dressed in mens overalls.
The women frantically ran from the posse but was cornered from all directions.
When asked if they 'negro men' had bothered the ladies, Ruby Bates claimed that they had been raped by them.
it doesn't stop here...
Interesting Information
The women were tested and NO signs of struggle or rape were found.
The women were also found as prostitutes who would travel in search of money for their services. While one woman was a minor and it was against the law to cross the boarder for illegal activities; these charges were never enforced against the woman and they were released.
The Trial
Crowds grew from 8,000 - 10,000 whites, who milled around in front of the Court House Square while the trial went on.
Things did not run smoothly in the courtroom and one of the woman even recanted her previous testimony.
In a series of trials, the youths were found guilty and sentenced to death or to prison terms of 75 to 99 years.
Brown vs. the Board of Education
While experiencing the effects of the depression, there was positive change within education that was established.
Brown vs. the Board of Education established a landmark decision of the United States Supreme court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools or black and white students and denying black children equal educational opportunities unconstitutional!
TKAM is set in the imaginary district of Maycomb County in Southern, Alabama.
It is rather isolated and progress of the 20th century had affected it little.
TKAM is set in the imaginary district of Maycomb County in Southern Alabama. It is rather isolated and progress of the 20th century had affected it little. Maycomb's citizens, by and large, held the same values their grandparents held.
The story begins in the summer of 1933 and ends on Halloween night of 1935.
During the time of the novel, the country is in the grips of the Depression.
Characters also hold true to their values in terms of black vs. white.
Isolated, Maycomb is slow to respond to change of any kind.
For many years, this rural area has been poor and uneducated.
Black people receive low wages, if any.
White farmers are more likely to own their land, but their crops are meager.
Maycomb's population has remained unchanged for many years.
Newcomers and new ideas are not accepted easily.
Segregation, the enforced separation of blacks and whites is still a part of everyday life.
Little progress is made towards the end of the novel.
By the time of the novel's publication in 1960, the Civil Rights movement had gained strong momentum.
Point of View
Harper Lee uses the character of Scout to tell the story in this first person vantage point.
The chief advantage of using the first person narration is an increased sense of intimacy, a sense of actually experiencing the events.
The author also uses the device of an adult person retelling the events of her childhood.
Prejudice is the intellectual and moral bias of people who hold strict opinions without having the available facts.
People who do not conform to accepted codes of behavior are persecuted and sometimes killed.
Most white people of Maycomb believe that prejudice against blacks must be upheld if southerns society is to be preserved.
Prejudice often leads to hypocrisy. Sometimes the hypocrisy is unintentional, such as Miss Gates and the missionary circle ladies who do not know the depth of their prejudice.
Sexism is a form of prejudice. Scout is often told to "act like a lady."
loss of innocence
In the beginning, Scout is innocent and inexperienced.
In the course of the novel, Scout learns to outgrow childish superstitions, learns to understand people from their point of view, and realizes the terrible results of prejudice.
Atticus teaches the children the importance of seeing life from another person's point of view.
The children learn to respect the behaviors of other people.
Understanding is seen as the key to peaceful coexistence between antagonistic parties.
The classroom withholds those ideas of the townspeople of Maycomb.
The author suggests that learning takes place outside the classroom and is just as important as the learning that takes place inside the classroom.
Form and Structure
TKAM is a well crafted novel.
It is told in the 1st person narrative.
The main tales of Boo and Tom Robinson are cleverly intertwined and complement each other.
At the end of the novel, there is a sense of having come full circle with the description of Jem's broken arm.
Literary Elements and Techniques
The novels simple sentences and diction are in keeping with the watchfulness of the book's narrator.
Scout's matter-of-fact style balances the complex and tragic aspects of the story.
Lee is also successful in reproducing the words and dialect (characteristic speech patterns) of the small Alabama town.
Lee makes extensive use of irony. The most notable examples of irony are the instances of hypocrisy. The ultimate example of irony is that of Boo, who is at first considered a monster by the town.
Another technique that Lee uses is humor.
Lee is very good at creating atmosphere.
One of the most outstanding elements of the novel is the use of symbols.
Keep in mind...
The continuation of this prezi may consist of some graphic images. Please conduct yourself accordingly.
Violence as a form of Prejudice
"Lynching is the illegal execution of an accused person by a mob."

The term lynching probably derived from the name Charles Lynch (1736-96), a justice of the peace who administered rough justice in Virginia.

Lynching was originally a system of punishment used by whites against African American slaves. However, whites who protests against this were also in danger of being lynched.

On Nov. 7th 1837, Elijah Parish Lovejoy, the editor of the "Alton Observer" was killed by a white mob after he had published articles criticizing lynching and advocating the abolition of slavery.
Segregation and Acts of Prejudice
Meet Emmet Till
Raised in Chicago, Illinois, the North
Sent to spend the summer in Money, Mississippi with his uncle
Warned by mother before he left to "mind his manners"
Arrived August 21, 1955
August 24: went to local store with his cousins
Stories vary: he whistled at a white woman, grabbed her hand and asked for a date, or whistled while he was leaving
woman (Carolyn Bryant) tells others
Bryant's husband and half brother decided to teach Till a lesson...
Men went to Till's house to confirm that he was the boy who spoke to his wife, and threw him into the back of their pick-up truck and drove off.
Drove him to an old barn, beat him up, burned his skin, and shot him
Tied a 70 lb. machine around his neck with barbed wire and threw his body into a river
Men later admitted to taking Till but claimed to set him free the same night
Till's body was found in the river 3 days later.

The Civil War
Full transcript