To Kill A Mockingbird Portrays Ongoing Fight for Justice
On this date in 1960, Harper Lee published the novel To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. The Pulitzer-Prize winning book addressed racial inequality in the American South with a story set during the Great Depression.
When Lee published the work, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., working through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, had emerged as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement which sought to bring equality before the law to all Americans. Lee’s portrayal of an accomplished white lawyer taking on an African American client accused of a heinous crime because he believes it is the right thing to do drew fire from segregationists across the American south and beyond.
Owing to the work of Lee, King and others, the 1960s witnessed the elevation of equality before the law over white racial privilege. Courts began to aggressively push back against the unfair treatment of criminal defendants based on factors unrelated to the facts of the case. For example, the poor won the right to legal representation (Gideon v. Wainwright), illegal searches could not produce evidence against you (Mapp v. Ohio) and confessions could not be coerced (Miranda v. Arizona).
The rights of all Americans have been won and protected on many battlefields. Lee’s portrayal of the fight for justice in the courtroom reveals but one.