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What do you learn from "To Kill a Mockingbird" about the treatment of black people in the southern states of America in the 1930s?

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Introduction

Social/Historical/ Cultural What do you learn from "To Kill a Mockingbird" about the treatment of black people in the southern states of America during the 1930's. The treatment of black people is one of the major issues raised in the novel. Black people had been brought over from Africa as slaves, centuries beforehand. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) slavery had been abolished, but the southern states were reluctant to allow black people equal rights to white people. Blacks continued to be segregated from whites, with different churches, different schools etc. While white people could employ and exploit black people, personal relationships between them were frowned upon, and many people did not even accept the idea that black people had the same thoughts and feelings as white people. In the 1930's, during the Depression, the blacks were the poorest people in society, doing the hardest jobs, such as being out in the scorching fields, picking cotton. In the novel , what I learned most was how the black people were segregated, or kept apart, from the whites. ...read more.

Middle

The Cunninghams attempt to take the law into their own hands and try to lynch Robinson before he can stand fair trial, and in the courtroom Mr Gilmer, the white lawyer, patronises Robinson, sneering and calling him "boy". Scout knows instinctively this is not right, as she has been brought up by a black woman and a lawyer, Chapt 19, "It ain't right...Hasn't anybody got any business talkin' like that". I also learnt that the blacks often missed out on education. In the church the majority cannot read the words to the hymns so have them spoken to them by someone who can read, and then they simply repeat the phrase. From reading the book, I learned that there was a great deal of prejudice shown against black people in 1930's America, Chapt 20, "the evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women". Cecil Jacobs fights with Scout because her daddy is defending a black man, showing up his family's racist views, by declaring his folks believe Atticus is "a disgrace" to defend Tom Robinson "an' that nigger oughta hang from the water tank". ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite their bad treatment, the black people in the book, apart from Lula, are presented as good role models, which make me feel that their treatment was even more unfair. Calpurnia has taught herself, her son, and Scout to read and write. Tom Robinson's manners are , "as good as Atticus's". The Reverent Sykes takes the children under his wing at the courthouse, and Calpurnia's son, a garbage collector, serves a valuable role leading the congregation in church by 'lining' the hymns, being among the few black people who could read. The black community also rally round, sending food to Atticus' house, to show gratitude, after he has tried, unsuccessfully, to defend Tom Robinson. In conclusion, despite the fact that I learnt in the book that there was a lot of bad treatment against black people in the southern states of America in the 1930's, I also learnt that it would not be easy to overcome, as it was so engrained in society. People like Scout were the hope for the future. As Calpurnia points out, ", Chapt 12, "You're not gonna change" people. "They've gotta wanta learn themselves". ...read more.

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