What was the black community's view of the Tom Robinson trial in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I imagine most of Maycomb's black community probably figured that Tom was innocent and that the charges were a sham, but there are no quotes from the story to suggest that. I'm sure they already understand the due process of the Alabama courts when it comes to a black man's word versus that of a white man, and few of them probably expected Tom to walk away a free man. Nor would any of them have dared to make any public statements that might have antagonized the white community. We do know that Reverend Sykes took up a collection in church to help Tom's wife, and he refused to end the service until $10 had been collected from his virtually penniless congregation.

At the trial, Scout describes how "The Negroes behind us whispered softly among themselves," but when Dill asked Reverend Sykes what they were saying, the preacher told him he didn't know. After Bob Ewell described how he caught Tom " 'ruttin' on my Mayella,' " there was "an angry muffled groan from the colored people." As the jury debated the final verdict, Reverend Sykes gave his opinion of Judge Taylor:

"Oh, he did right well. I ain't complainin' one bit--he was mighty fair-minded... I thought he was leanin' a little to our side."

But his later words were more telling.

"I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man..." 

Although no other opinions of the trial are expressed by any of Maycomb's black citizens, they showed their respect to Atticus by standing in unison when he left the courtroom. The next day, Atticus's kitchen is filled with gifts of food from Tom's grateful friends.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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