Law in Popular Culture

50 Years Later, Harper Lee's 'Mockingbird' Still a Cautionary Tale for Our Times, AG Holder Says

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It’s been 50 years since Harper Lee published her now-famous book To Kill a Mockingbird. But her fictional tale of racial injustice, focused on a Southern lawyer’s efforts to defend an unpopular client at trial in a rape case, is still a cautionary story for our times, said U.S. Attorney Eric Holder today.

Speaking in a crowded lecture hall at the University of Alabama, where Lee herself attended law school before publishing her only book in 1960, Holder described the novel as a book about injustice that, to this day, can grind the innocent into the ground, but also a book about courage, reports the Associated Press.

Although the door to opportunity is opened wider today, bias and bigotry are still a problem worldwide and “the truth is that there is nothing easy about 2010,” said the AG. His own wife is the sister of the late Vivian Malone Jones, who was one of the first black students to attend the University of Alabama after the student body became integrated.

To commemorate the book’s publication, the university, with help from the American Bar Association, is establishing the Harper Lee Prize of Legal Literature for fiction showing the positive effect lawyers can have on society. It is co-sponsored by the law school and the ABA Journal, an Alabama press release about today’s event notes.

Lee’s book, said law dean Kenneth Randall, was a landmark for a generation of lawyers and helped “redefine the scope of the legal profession.”

Related earlier coverage: “ABA Honors ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Atticus Finch” “Summer Events Planned to Celebrate 50th Birthday of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’”

National Law Journal: “University of Alabama’s Harper Lee award will honor legal fiction”

Tuscaloosa News: “U.S. attorney general to speak at UA event”

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