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Tom Robinson’s Conviction In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1579 words - 6 pages

Tom Robinson’s Conviction in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is an almost faultless representation of how the “white” word dominated the “black” word in the South. The novel shows that a white person’s word, no matter how faulted, was more readily accepted than any black person’s word. Allowing a “Negro’s” word to be accepted over “white” word would make southern society less secure in its assumed superiority.

The southern “superiority” over Negroes had existed since the time of the slave trade and continued after the emancipation, out of fear. As long as Negroes were considered “property,” they were protected by their “value.” Following the abolition of legal slavery, their economic protection vanished, and the southern white population feared their infiltration with society. Out of fear came hate in the white southern community. Organizations reflecting their hate were created, such as the Ku Klux Klan. Lynchings, unjustified convictions, and severe economic oppression were all part of Negro-life in the south between 1925-1935.

With the Stock Market Crash in October of 1929 the United States suffered severe economic depression. With the closing of many mills and plants, unemployment skyrocketed. The economic collapse was painful to all communities, but to the blacks of the South who were already severely oppressed, it was devastating. Farming communities, which were already in a depression before the crash, went hungry and rarely had surplus crop to sell for profit. Crop prices fell nearly 50% between 1929 and 1930. During the depression it was nearly impossible for blacks to find work because unemployed whites were chosen over blacks no matter what their qualifications were. Often blacks were forced out of their positions to provide more jobs for white workers. By about 1932, nearly 50% of the black population was unemployed in the United States. While the New Deal programs of the Roosevelt administration were helpful in the fight against racial discrimination, they were often ignored in the South.

Both prior to and during the economic depression, “the common resolve of all white Southerners was that the region ‘shall be and remain a white man’s country’” (Carter 104). In the South at this time, a back person’s word meant nothing over a white person’s word. Even the white women, who were also oppressed at the time, had supremacy over all blacks. In Alabama in the 1930’s, “If a white woman was willing to swear that a Negro either raped or attempted to rape her, ‘we see to it that the Negro is executed’”(Carter 105). The best example of this southern attitude is revealed in the case of the Scottsboro boys.

During the early thirties, it was common for both whites and black “drifters” to catch freight trains to other towns seeking work. While this was considered illegal, it was ignored due to the state of the economy. It was considered best that “the idle were on...

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