Legal History

'Mockingbird' Legacy: Remembrance of Racist Times Past

Although it is a novel, rather than non-fiction, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has, perhaps more than any other book, impressed into the minds of many a consciousness of the racist justice system that characterized the segregated American south for much of the last century.

An instant best-seller after it was published in 1960, the book ranks second only to the Bible in its impact for many people, reports Reuters.

Today, it – and a subsequent movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a white criminal defense attorney who takes on a losing cause – still resonate with the thousands of tourists who visit Monroeville, Alabama, the author’s hometown each spring. They come to see, among other remembrances of racist times past, a staged trial at the local courthouse of a black man falsely accused – and convicted – of a white woman’s rape that is the central plot of the book, the news agency says.

The trial may have been based on a real-life case of an African-American man who, according to recently discovered records, was falsely accused, tried in Monroeville, convicted and sentenced to death before his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died of tuberculosis in 1937.

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