In 1959, Harper Lee finished her manuscript for her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was published by Warner Books in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for fiction. The novel took over the country by storm, telling the story narrated by a young girl named Scout (also known as Jean Louise Finch) and her coming of age in a small Alabama town. It follows the story of how the town deals with racial prejudices as Scout’s father defends Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. The book then became a movie that was released in 1962, starring Gregory Peck. Both book and movie are still analyzed and taught all over America and still leaves a resonating life-changing feeling with young readers even today.
Lee’s novel is one of the most frequently challenged books according to the American Library Association. It has been challenged, removed from schools’ and libraries’ bookshelves, and banned over and over again. Some reasons are, the frequently used racial slurs throughout the novel, others have claimed it “immoral“, and most recently it has been removed from the curriculum at school because it made students “uncomfortable.” In 1969, when Harper Lee caught wind of the removal of the novel from Hanover County Schools in Virginia because the book was deemed immoral, she said, “Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.” The question of whether or not is the novel should be taught or even on a school’s library’s shelves is still debated today.