Racial Prejudice and Oppression in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird
'Democracy,' she said. 'Does anybody have a definition?' ... 'Equal rights for all, special privileges for none' (Lee 248).
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee's only novel, is a fictional story of racial oppression, set in Maycomb, A.L. in 1925 to 1935, loosely based on the events of the Scottsboro trials. Unlike the story however, the racial discrimination and oppression in the novel very accurately portrays what it was like in the 1920's and 1930's in the south. Tom Robinson, the black man accused of raping a poor low class white girl of 19, never stood a chance of getting a fair trial. This can be supported by giving examples of racially discriminatory and oppressive events that actually took place in the south during the time period in which the novel is based. In addition to actual historical events, events and examples from the book that clearly illustrate the overpoweringly high levels of prejudice that were intertwined in the everyday thinking of the majority of the characters in the book supports the fact that Tom Robinson never stood a chance of getting a fair trial.
One historical event that shows the discrimination and the oppression that was prevalent in the south during the 1920's to 1930's is recorded in the June 12, 1930 edition of the New York Times. The article "Birmingham Bars Hall to De Priest" describes how "...Oscar De Priest, Negro [Federal] representative from Illinois, would not be permitted to use the municipal auditorium for a scheduled address..."("Birmingham Bars Hall") that was to have take place on July 17th of that year in Birmingham, Alabama. The president of the Birmingham City Commission, J. M. Jones's only comment "... if the auditorium had been reserved for the occasion, the reservation would be canceled" ("Birmingham Bars Hall"). The article doesn't discuss why the reservation was cancelled, but the fact that De Priest was "... scheduled to address a Negro fraternal convention," ("Birmingham Bars Hall") clearly is the reason why. Most white people in the south during this time didn't like seeing black people gaining power or become independent. The simple facts that De Priest was a national representative for Illinois in addition to being black would have angered many whites in the south during this time period. The actual event of having him come to their city to address a gathering of black men would have most likely infuriated many white people. Mr. Jones didn't decide to bar De Priest from the auditorium because it 'needed to be fumigated.' He, with the prompting of many others, barred De Priest because they didn't want to see a black man in power. They wanted him to remain oppressed. This is only one example of the racial prejudice and oppression that was so prevalent in the south during this time.
Another actual event that clearly provides an example of the extreme discrimination and oppression of blacks...