History and literature seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, one is rarely affected without the other being affected as well. A great example is the struggle of African Americans throughout history and the effect it has had on literature of that time. In her novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Harper Lee uses historical examples and situations to bring to light the horrors of prejudice in Southern society that have gone on for years, and makes obvious the need for change. The book itself is based in the 30s. During this time, racial tension concerning African Americans and white societies was at an all-time high.
Due to the stock market crash, there was major unemployment, leading to heated arguments and many jobless African Americans allowing room for white men to find employment. This large scale tension allowed groups such as the KKK to regain popularity, along with the sick punishment of lynching. (Race Ralations in 1930s and 1940s, 2013) A great example of the hatred and prejudice amongst this time period lies within the true, sad story of the Scottsboro Boys. 9 African American teenagers traveling on a train, searching for job opportunities, got into a scuffle with a few white men.
(Linder, 2013)The white men along with two white females went and told the station master that the nine African American boys raped the two females. After years of trials, retrials and convictions, the innocent group of African American boys were declared guilty. Although countless evidence proved them innocent, including one of the women who were ‘raped’ stating she lied (Linder, 2013), the relentless racist accusations overruled any real evidence, so the boys were sentenced to death. The Scottsboro Boys were Lee’s inspiration for the Tom Robinson trial in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
If it weren t for the past, where would we be today If it wasn t for the trials and tribulations of are ancestors would we have our freedom These questions could be answered with a simple yes or no, but the eyes of most people it means hope, hope for a life of equal opportunities as any other race. Through the course of time African Americans have made positive changes for a better world today. ...
Tom, a slave, gets accused of rape although you learn later that it is in fact consensual, and even so he is deemed guilty. These two different cases relate in the sense that they both bring to light the true colors of southern societies. Although in both trials the innocent are punished, the cases reveal the evil that lies within prejudice, class-conscious societies and reflects Lee’s outlook on the racial tendencies that still are at work during the 60s, the time she wrote the novel. By the time the 60s came around, Civil Rights started to seem probable, but challenges to equality were still in full swing.
Just about 5 years before To Kill a Mockingbird was published, according to PBS, a 14 year old African American boy was dragged out of his bed in the middle of the night, harshly beaten, and then shot in the head for whistling at a white female (Murder of Emmitt Till, 2013).
Around the same time, four African American churches along with the homes of Martin Luther King and E. D. Nixon were bombed by a group of white citizens who were angry about the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. Thankfully, this seemed to be the near end of many decades of endless struggles.
Strides towards equality began to expand, and on November 13th, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Montgomery Bus Boycotters, ending segregation on buses (Vox, 2013).
Harper Lee was very passionate about legalizing civil rights. So perhaps after these happenings, she was even more excited and anxious to publish her book; to get the point of equality fully out in the open to persuade popular opinion in favor of her own. History and literature have gone hand in hand for a long time. According to Gilbert Muyumbi, “The very definition of history encompasses literature. History is the study of past human events and activities.
Nelle Harper Lee's Philosophy on the Proper Treatment of Human Beings in To Kill A Mockingbird The 1930's were a time in which blacks faced many hardships. It was a time in which the Ku Klux Klan had its peak. However, most importantly, it was the time when Nelle Harper Lee, the writer of To Kill A Mockingbird, was being raised. She was raised in a world where 'niggers'; were the bottom class in ...
” (Muyumbu, 2012) So it’s not a surprise that the events that happened in the 30s and through the 60s influenced Harper Lee extensively. From the conviction of the Scottsboro boys and their relationship with the case of fictional Tom Robinson to the prejudice acts that followed even decades after that, Lee saw many things that influenced her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and to this day the lessons to be learned in her book are still relevant. The book itself is an example of not just great literature, but a great representation of the historical battle for civil rights and how things really were only 60 years ago. References