Why was To Kill a Mockingbird Banned? - History & Reasons

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  • 0:03 A Brief Summary
  • 1:37 Book Banning in the 1960s
  • 2:29 After the Civil Rights…
  • 3:52 Current Concerns
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

Harper Lee's novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is an American classic. Its themes of race, youth, and morality have been studied and praised since the novel's release in 1960. However, the novel has also been negatively received and even banned in schools. In this lesson, we'll discuss why.

A Brief Summary

Set in the 1930s, To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in a small town, Maycomb, Alabama, and tells the story of the Finches: Scout, her brother Jim, and their father Atticus, a lawyer. In the opening of their story, we learn that not much changes in this small town. Out of boredom, Scout and Jim become obsessed with the Radley place, a house they are sure is haunted, and its occupant Boo Radley. While walking to school, Scout has to pass the Radley house and she begins to find small, hidden treasures in a tree in the front yard. Eventually Boo's brother fills the hole in the tree, and the treasures stop.

As the school year continues, Atticus takes the case of a black man, Tom, who is accused of raping a woman. As the trial takes place, it becomes more apparent that the woman is lying about Tom. However, Tom is still convicted and the town is furious at Atticus for defending a black man and accusing a white woman of lying. Following the conviction, Tom is shot while trying to escape prison, and Jem and Scout are attacked while walking home from school. After the attack, the accuser's father is dead, Jem is injured, and Boo Radley carries Scout home to safety. Although there is a lingering question of whether Jem killed the father, the novel ends with Scout standing on her porch, looking at the Radley House, and wondering what Boo thinks of them.

Book Banning in the 1960s

Following its publication before the Civil Rights Movement, a movement to secure equality, the novel was mostly challenged because of the rape and language. Many parents are uncomfortable with their children reading and discussing rape, even calling the book immoral. In 1966, in what was probably the first large protest, the town of Hanover, VA, divided as letters from parents were sent to the newspaper arguing against the novel. Many other school districts have argued about the rape and the use of profanity in the novel. Parents have argued that the use of profanity by the children in the novel was offensive and may even encourage their own children to use profanity. In the novel, Atticus seems to accept that Scout uses profanity, even commenting that she has been cursing for several weeks.

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