To Kill A
Mockingbird
Background
PowerPoint and
Notes
Racial Segregation

January 1, 1863: Lincoln
issued the Emancipation
Proclamation, which
declared freedom for all
slaves.
– Intended to weaken the
South’s power during the
U.S. Civil War
– Although slaves were
“free,” black people were
affected by state laws that
prevented equality
– These laws were known as
the Jim Crow Laws
Plessy vs. Ferguson

Strengthened the already
popular Jim Crow Laws
 In 1892, 30-year-old Homer Plessy was jailed for
sitting in a “white” section of a railroad car
 Plessy was 1/8th black, but under Louisiana law,
he was considered “colored” and was supposed to
ride in the “colored car.”
 Plessy argued that his arrest was a violation of the
Constitution
 Ferguson, the judge, found Plessy GUILTY of
refusing to leave the “white car.” See handout
Plessy vs. Ferguson

After an appeal, the case
went to the Supreme Court,
which upheld the decision
and perpetuated the concept
of “separate but equal.”
 This enabled schools,
courthouses, libraries,
hotels, theaters,
restaurants, public
transportation, etc., to
segregate “coloreds” from
“whites.”
“Jim Crow” Laws


From the 1880s to the
1960s most states
enforced segregation
through the “Jim
Crow” laws named
after a black-faced
character in minstrel
shows.
Through these laws
legal punishments
could be imposed
on people for
having contact with
members of another
race.
Jim Crow Laws


The term Jim Crow comes from the
minstrel show song “Jump Jim
Crow” written in 1828 and
performed by Thomas Dartmouth
“Daddy” Rice, a white English
migrant to the U.S. and the first
popularizer of blackface
performance.
A caricature of a shabbily dressed
rural black named “Jim Crow”
became a standard character in
minstrel shows.
Jim Crow Guide

1. A Black male could not offer his hand (to shake hands) with a White male because it
implied being socially equal. Obviously, a Black male could not offer his hand or any other
part of his body to a White woman, because he risked being accused of rape.
·
2. Blacks and Whites were not supposed to eat together. If they did eat together, Whites
were to be served first, and some sort of partition was to be placed between them.
·
3. Under no circumstance was a Black male to offer to light the cigarette of a White
female -- that gesture implied intimacy.
·
4. Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public,
especially kissing, because it offended Whites.
·
5. Blacks were introduced to Whites, never Whites to Blacks.
·
6. Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to Blacks, for example,
Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma'am. Instead, Blacks were called by their first names or by “boy”
or “girl” (regardless of age). Blacks had to use courtesy titles when referring to Whites,
and were not allowed to call them by their first names.
·
7. If a Black person rode in a car driven by a White person, the Black person sat in the
back seat, or the back of a truck.
·
8. White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections.
etiquette

Blacks were expected to refer
to whites with titles of
superiority like BOSS, SIR,
CAPTAIN, MISS, or MRS.
 Whites referred to blacks
using derogatory terms like
BOY, LADY, GIRL and the
N word.
 Blacks were expected to let
whites walk on the sidewalk
and signs reading things like
“Negroes and Dogs Not
Allowed” were common


After the Civil War, The Ku
Klux Klan was formed as a
secret society that promoted
white supremacy using
violence and terrorism to
undo the gains that former
slaves had made.
However, after the 1920s the
KKK was no longer
secretive about their work
and public violence against
Blacks, including lynching,
became common
occurrences.
After WW1

Even though Blacks had
fought bravely for the US
in WW1, they returned
home from Europe to find
the same, if not worse,
discrimination and
segregation.
 The economic struggles
of the 1930s seemed only
to worsen the situation.
“Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?”
…I am a Negro American
Out to defend my land…
I’ve seen my buddy lying
Where he fell.
I’ve watched him dying
I promised him that I would try
To make our land a land
Where his son could be a man –
And there’d be no Jim Crow birds
Left in our sky…
So this is what I want to know:
When we see Victory’s glow,
Will you still let old Jim Crow
hold me back?
…will Dixie Lynch me still
When I return?…
Langston Hughes
(1902-1967)
The Scottsboro Trials



In 1931, a fight between white and black teen boys occurred on a
train between Tennessee and Alabama.
Two girls on a train, one well-known prostitute and one minor,
were accused of violating the Mann Act (crossing state lines for
prostitution).
They immediately accused all nine black men of rape.
The Scottsboro Trials

Eight of the nine
boys were
sentenced to death
despite the fact that
they were not even
all in the same rail
car.
 Appeals continued
for years and only
two were acquitted.
 See excerpt
The Great Depression (1930s)




The Depression hit the
South especially hard
Everyone, seemed to be
living in poverty
Americans turned away
from the rest of the world
and away from each other
During these years of
turmoil, discontent started
to grow in the minds of
Whites and Blacks alike.
The Great
Depression

Overspending in the
1920’s
 Stock Market crash
of 1929
 President Franklin
D. Roosevelt and the
New Deal
 World War II
To kill a Mockingbird

It is in this setting
that the novel To
Kill a Mockingbird
takes place.
 In a small town, in
the deep South, in
the early 1930s
Harper Lee (1926-)

To add to the complexity
of the story, Harper Lee
wrote it during a time of
even greater social
turbulence in the United
States.

In the 1950s the winds of
change began to blow and
Black Americans were no
longer willing to be
treated as lesser human
beings.
Harper Lee





Born Nelle Harper Lee, April
28, 1926
Grew up during the Great
Depression
Grew up in Monroeville,
Alabama, in the heart of the
South, where racial tension
was high
Dad was a lawyer
Mother’s maiden name was
Finch
Brown vs. Board of Education

In 1954, after 2 years in court,
the nation was shocked by a
landmark decision to grant
Linda Brown, a Black fifthgrader, admission into a white
elementary school in Topeka,
Kansas.
 The decision engendered
feelings of triumph and outrage
across a country that had lived
under the weight of racial
segregation and discrimination
for over 100 years.
The Winds of Change

Soon, average
Black citizens
across the country
began speaking out
against oppression
and demanding
equal rights. This
was the beginning
of America’s Civil
Rights Movement.
Rosa Parks (1913-)


In 1955, after a long
day of work, 42year-old Rosa Parks
refused to give up
her seat to a white
man on a
Montgomery County
bus
This set off peaceful
and violent protests
throughout the
South.
Television Changes Everything

By this time, many families had
televisions and as images of
Southern race riots and violent
protests reached into American
homes the magnitude of Southern
racism began to sink into the
American consciousness.

Moreover, the rest of the world
began to frown upon America’s
treatment of Blacks, and
segregation, like slavery, became
a national embarrassment for a
country who had fought in two
world wars as great liberators of
the down-trodden masses.
Dr. Martin Luther King (1929-1968)

Black HeroLeaders began to
rally together
Black Americans
in order to fight
oppression and
for a country
where all men
were truly
treated as equals.
Desegregation



A national and international call
for desegregation of the South
rang out and Blacks and Whites all
over the country started putting
pressure on governments to amend
the segregation laws.
Those individuals, both Black and
White, who fought for Civil
Rights were under constant attack
from White Supremacists who
were unwilling to accept Black
Americans as equals
Many freedom-fighters died for
their efforts
To Kill a Mockingbird



In the Fall of 1960, in the
middle of the Civil Rights
Movement, To Kill a
Mockingbird was published.
It shot to the top of the New
York Times best seller list.
A country was finally ready
to listen to the story of
segregation and open their
minds to the possibility of an
America where Whites and
Blacks could live together as
equals.
“ I have a dream that my four little
children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the
color of their skin, but by the content of
their character."
Dr. Martin Luther King
History of the Novel
Harper Lee’s novel is one of the best-selling
books in the nation’s history.
 Won the Pulitzer Prize
 Translated into more than 40 languages
 Been made into an enormously popular
movie
 Librarians across the country voted it the
best novel of the 20th century.

History of the Novel cont.

Frequently cited by readers as the book that
has made the biggest difference in their
lives.
**Through the lives of children, it allows the
reader to walk around in the shoes of people
who are different from ourselves.
**The novel challenges our stereotypes—of the
Southerner, of the African American, the
eccentric, the child, and the young lady.
Setting/ Basic Info

Maycomb Country, Alabama
(fictional)
 1933-1935
 Written: Mid-50s
 Narrator: Scout Finch
– 1st person narrator
– Use flashback
– Tone—childlike, humorous,

innocent; as the novel
progresses, dark, foreboding,
and critic of society
– She bases Scout somewhat on
herself

Scout has matured over the
years and humorously
comments on the
innocence she displayed in
her thoughts / actions as a
young girl
She mostly tells of her
thoughts but focuses on her
brother Jem’s thoughts also
Jem Finch
Scout’s older brother
 He undergoes a transformation from
innocent child to a young adult who is faced
with the realities of living in his small town
and what prejudices exist right outside his
front porch.

Atticus Finch

Father and only parent to Scout and Jem
Finch
 Local lawyer like Lee’s biological father
 He is the lawyer who is defending a black
man accused of raping a teenage girl in the
1930s during the midst of the Great
Depression.
Major Thematic Ideas

Remember a theme is usually in sentence form.
These are the thematic ideas.
– Prejudice—the most obvious
– Equal justice
– Courage: moral, physical, and mental
– Social ostracism (exclusion)
– Maturation
– Heroism
– Friendship
– Innocence and what can happen to it
Literary Terms Focus

Allusion—reference within a literary work
to another fiction work, a film, a piece of
art, or a real event.
– Positives: A way of drawing on this outside
work / object to provide greater context /
meaning to the situation being discussed
– Negatives: People may not always understand
or know the work or object being referenced

Example
– His love for her drove him to stamp out her life like
Othello did to Desdemona.
Literary Terms Focus

Symbol: people, places, or things used to
represent something else in literature
– Personal: certain objects mean certain things to
us
– Cultural: “Hang on Sloopy” = OSU
– Universal:
Literary Terms Focus

Idiom: Meaning cannot be deduced from
literal definitions or arrangement of words
– Figurative meaning must be used instead
 Examples:
– Sitting around waiting is making me antsy.
– Life has been difficult for you recently, but keep your
chin up. Everything will be better soon.”
– He says nice things to me when we’re together, but he
makes jokes about me when we aren’t. He’s two-faced.”
– “That really gets my goat.” (From TKAM)
Connection to Life

Mini-Writing Assignment—1-2 paragraphs due by
Thursday 01/08
– Think about your early childhood or now




Were there any houses on your street you were afraid of?
Were there any legends or scary stories you were told about
someone on your street, family member, teacher, etc. that you
believed?
Was there anyone you lived near but never saw?
Was there anyone at school you heard “stories” about that were
not true but you believed and feared?
– Think for a few minutes about this mysterious or scary
person or experience and write it down. Explain the
outcome as well. COME UP WITH SOMETHING!!
Make it creative—like a short narrative
– ***Must be typed or handwritten in MLA with 4 line
heading, header with last name and page number, title,
double spaced, etc. ***
The End
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Historical Background for To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper …