In this video from American Masters: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo, learn about the small town of Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee’s hometown and the ...
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The fictional Maycomb, the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird, bears more than a passing resemblance to the landscape of Monroeville, the town where the novelist Harper Lee grew up during the Depression. “Monroevillians who read the book will see familiar names. Some events and situations are tinged with local color,” said an editorial in the Monroe Journal in June 1960.
Monroeville is set on a square with a courthouse in the middle. That is where Harper Lee has said that she, as Scout did in the novel, spent time in the balcony watching her own lawyer father, Amasa Coleman Lee (often called A.C.) at work. “Few people live to be 80 years old and then have their name changed,” the Journal reported. “That is what has happened to a prominent Monroeville attorney. A. C. Lee is now being called Atticus Finch.” Finch was the maiden name of A.C.’s wife and Harper Lee’s mother, Frances.
In 1961, when she was photographed in the balcony of the Monroe County Courthouse by Life, Lee told the magazine, “The trial was a composite of all the trials in the world—some in the South. But the courthouse was this one. My father was a lawyer, so I grew up in this room and mostly watched him from here. My father is one of the few men I’ve known with genuine humility, and it lends him a natural dignity. He has absolutely no ego drive, and so he was one of the most beloved men in this part of the state.”
While Nelle Harper Lee was growing up, her lawyer father also was a state legislator (1926–1938) and the editor of the Monroe Journal (1929–1947). This was the Deep South, where cotton was plentiful and sharecropping the norm. Monroeville was a farming community, hard-hit during the Depression. The Hoover carts of Maycomb—mules or oxen hitched to a car because gasoline was unaffordable—were on the real-life streets of Monroeville.
--adapted from Mary Murphy’s book Scout, Atticus, and Boo
- In the video, what does Harper Lee say in the archival radio interview about growing up in the South during the Great Depression?
- In this video, Wally Lamb reads a passage from To Kill a Mockingbird that describes the fictional town of Maycomb. What is it about the text Harper Lee used that makes this town come alive? Cite examples from the video (Note: use the transcript for additional help) to support your claim.
- How does the video describe life in the South during the Great Depression?
- What does Rev. Thomas Lane Butts mean when he says that "people took in racism with their mother’s milk?"
This media asset is from American Masters Harper Lee: Hey, Boo.
For more information on Director Mary Murphy and the Hey, Boo 45-minute classroom edition, visit Mary Murphy & Company.
Harper Lee: Hey, Boo is a production of Mary Murphy & Company, LLC. For more information, visit www.marymurphy.net.
Harper Lee: Hey, Boo is a production of Mary Murphy & Company, LLC.
For more information, visit www.marymurphy.net.