Tuesday, January 21, 2020
US flag

Obituary: Harper Lee, author of Mockingbird

Harper Lee, whose first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, about racial injustice in a small Alabama town, became one of the most beloved and most taught works of fiction ever written by an American, died on February 19 at the assisted living facility where she lived in Monroeville, Alabama. She was 89, the New York Times reports.

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, added to our understanding of civil rights.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and sold more than 40 million copies. The success of the novel brought celebrity into Ms Lee’s life, success that was certainly deserved but not necessarily sought.

“I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird,” Ms Lee told a radio interviewer at the time. “I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers, but, at the same time I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement.”

The 60s were a time of upheaval in the US, and her book enlightened millions of Whites then and, through the work of excellent teachers of literature, in the decades since the book’s publication. Her writing encouraged us to be tolerant and accepting of people in our midst who were different from ourselves, and that is a lesson many Americans can learn even today.

I personally thank her for her masterpiece, which stands as one of the greatest American novels. Her character Atticus Finch is timeless in how he showed that we don’t need the superpowers of Batman or Captain America to be a person of character and integrity who helps others.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. —Atticus Finch in Mockingbird

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.

Md. & IL bands perform on New Year’s in...

Bands from IL and Md. once again entertained thousands of people who lined the streets of London and Rome on New Year's Day.

Howard Co. sounds an under-staffing alarm

Teachers in a Md. district have filed a grievance over missing planning and lunch periods and, as a result, putting the most vulnerable students at risk.

Top 11 school stories of 2019

We find these 11 stories to have the greatest potential for influencing activity and direction in schools for the near future.

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.