This article describes Alabama’s decision to posthumously pardon three of the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine black men who were accused and convicted of raping two white women in 1933. The famous case was one of the inspirations for To Kill a Mockingbird. This article describes the enduring legacy of such cases and gestures toward the racism still inherent in the justice system.
This page includes photos of the Scottsboro Boys, their accusers, and the trial. It comes from a website with many more primary and secondary sources about the Scottsboro case. The images give life to the historical persons involved in the case. Because many of the photos come from 1930s Alabama, they may also help readers of To Kill a Mockingbird imagine more fully the characters and setting.
This obituary of Harper Lee provides a detailed summary of her life and accomplishments, including the context behind the writing of To Kill a Mockingbird. It also briefly describes the controversy around the sequel’s publication. The obituary also describes Lee’s research toward Truman Capote’s famous true-crime book In Cold Blood (1966).
William Giraldi, “The Suspicious Story Behind Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman,” July 13, 2015, New Republic, https://newrepublic.com/article/122290/the-suspicious-story-behind-harper-lees-go-set-a-watchman
This article describes the important controversy that arose in 2015, when HarperCollins announced they would be publishing a long-lost sequel to Mockingbird. Doubts arose as to whether the elderly Lee was mentally competent to make such a decision. Published later that year, Go Set a Watchman presents a much more negative view of Atticus Finch.
“Alabama’s Rural Schools: An Education Out of Reach?” Montgomery Advertiser, May 24, 2014, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/education/2014/05/25/alabamas-rural-schools-education-reach/9562449/
Education is an important theme in Mockingbird: Atticus places great emphasis on his children’s education, and many early scenes are set in their (segregated) schoolroom. This newspaper article describes the challenges that still persist in making education accessible to rural Alabama residents, revealing that many challenges hinted at in Mockingbird are still ongoing.
Harper Lee was a notoriously reclusive writer and stopped granting interviews several years after the publication of Mockingbird. This interview is the only known recorded interview where she discusses the novel.
This documentary, directed by Ava DuVernay, traces the rise of the prison-industrial complex in the United States. Its historical narrative provides important context for To Kill a Mockingbird’s representation of lynching and racism in the justice system. The film weaves together historical events, films, and other media from throughout the twentieth century, so it also provides context for understanding the media environment in which Lee wrote Mockingbird.