Topic: I need to compare groups that were in the Civil Rights Movement with the groups that were present in Harper Lee's world of Maycomb. Need help identifying groups from the novel.
There are not any organized civil rights groups mentioned in the novel, but there are several white people who acted with a mind to equality and justice for all people. Those are the type of people that would take up the causes of the Civil Rights Movement 30 years later, historically speaking. It is people like Atticus and Miss Maudie who taught the next generation of people, through their words and actions, that the segregation and exploitation of blacks was wrong. Black people found their voices in a South that was, however slowly, changing. Harper Lee wrote a book that affirmed the goodness of mankind, both black and white, the still resonates today.
You could compare Atticus to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. Both he and they were fighting through the courts for justice for African
Americans. You could compare the Missionary Circle to southern white churches of the time that professed the brotherhood of all people but who did not do try to make a stand for racial integration.
Consider first that the Civil Rights Movement did not really begin until the 1950s and actually was most prominent in the 60s. Though the book was written in the heart of these times, it is set in the 1930s. I think the best way to go about researching and writing this essay would be to consider the novel as historically accurate (even though it is fiction). Any groups who were active in Alabama during the 1930s would have been active in the story. In this way, you are appealing to the historical and social correctness of the setting.
Named groups: The WPA (Works Progress Administration) is mentioned by name in conjunction with description of the Ewells. Thought this was not directly a "Civil Rights" group, it was set up by Roosevelt's "New Deal." This means you could also look into other government programs established by the New Deal which may have continued to have influence in during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement (the Federal Housing Administration is another).
Unnamed groups: Consider that Civil Rights largely began with the education of poor blacks who had previously been denied that right. You could certainly include in your essay points about the general illiteracy of black people during that time (the scene in Calpurnia's church is a great example) and how things changed between the 30s and the 60s. Though there were far fewer "formal" groups meeting during the time of the novel, you can also consider that Civil Rights activity also largely began in churches and homes. MLK was a preacher before he was a Civil Rights Leader. In the 30s and 40s, the black community came together regularly for church and for family time.
The final group you might want to consider looking at (though from a negative perspective) is the KKK. The KKK is not focused on in the book, but it is mentioned once as a distant problem in the chapter with the mob scene outside the court house.