Lee, Harper: 1926 - 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960 - Information about the Book


  • When Harper Lee submitted the manuscript to J.B. Lippincott Company in 1957, the publisher told her it read more like a series of short stories than a novel. She spent the next two years revising it. The novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was finally published in 1960.
  • The book was challenged in the Vernon-Verona-Sherill, N.Y. School District (1980) as a "filthy, trashy novel." Challenged at the Warren, Ind. Township schools (1981) because the book does "psychological damage to the positive integration process" and "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of 'good literature.'" After unsuccessfully banning Lee's novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council. Challenged in the Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984 ) because the novel uses the word "nigger." Challenged in the Kansas City, Mo. junior high schools (1985). Challenged at the Park Hill, Mo. Junior High School (1985) because the novel "contains profanity and racial slurs." Retained on a supplement eighth grade reading list in the Casa Grande, Ariz. Elementary School District (1985), despite the protests by black parents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who charged the book was unfit for junior high use. Challenged at the Santa Cruz, Calif. Schools (1995) because of its racial themes. Removed from the Southwood High School library in Caddo Parish, La. (1995) because the book's language and content were objectionable. It was furthermore challenged at the Park Hill, Missouri (USA) Junior High School because the novel contains "profanity and racial slurs." (1986).
    From Floyd College.



  • An in-depth look: with David Baker, Robert Duvall, Horton Foote, Charles J. Shields, Curtis Sittenfeld, Elizabeth Spencer, Anne Twomey, and Sandra Day O'Connor. National Endowment for the Arts (transcript)
    • Excerpt:

      Now, a Literary Moment...

      For six years, Harper Lee worked odd jobs in New York City to make ends meet, writing in the evenings. She finally got a book contract with a major publisher for what would be her only novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

      Lee's biographer Charles J. Shields: So for two and a half years, living almost entirely on her advance alone, she worked on this novel. At one point, she got so fed up that she got up from her desk, went over to the window, and threw it out in the snow, the entire manuscript. She called her editor, Tay Hohoff, at Lippincott and told her what she'd done and Tay told her to march out and get it all back.

      And lucky for us. Publishers often refer to their daily avalanche of unsolicited manuscripts as the 'slush pile.' But To Kill A Mockingbird may be the only classic that needed rescuing from a slush pile even after a publisher accepted it.

      This Literary Moment was created by the National Endowment for the Arts

  • Who Wrote 'To Kill a Mockingbird': Truman Capote or Harper Lee? Dr. Wayne Flynt discusses the basis for the persistent rumor and explains why Harper Lee is the author. NPR; May 3, 2006 (4:07) - transcript
  • 'Mockingbird' Still Sings America's Song. NPR; July 7, 2010 - transcript
  • To Meet A 'Mockingbird': Memoir Recalls Talks With Harper Lee. NPR; July 21, 2014 - Transcript


  • Sue Wasiolek, Duke University, on "To Kill a Mockingbird", April 21, 2011


  • Theme, Motifs, Symbols

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  • Mockingbird: Symbol Of Innocence

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