In class, our teacher asked us to pick a topic that the book 'To Kill a Mockingbird' relates to. My group chose African American status but someone already chose Jim Crow laws. Any ideas of what we...

In class, our teacher asked us to pick a topic that the book 'To Kill a Mockingbird' relates to. My group chose African American status but someone already chose Jim Crow laws. Any ideas of what we could do?

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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If you want to stay with issues associated with African Americans of the time, there are several things you can pick.  During the scene where Atticus stands outside the courthouse to protect Jim from the mob, he is also protecting him from lynching.  Called the Negro Holocaust, lynching was a major problem in the South for many years.  Blacks were often lynched without a trial.  The lynchings also became a source of amusement with people traveling for miles to witness them, with schools letting out so kids could attend them, and with the selling of photographs of the hangings on postcards.  You might want to check out the book Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photographs in America by James Allen.  It is very graphic, but the introduction gives great historical background on this atrocity. 

You could also look at the effects of the Great Depression on blacks in the South.  There were very few jobs and hardly any help given to blacks during this time.  Many were poor farmers like Tom Robinson and had to eke out a living without much assistance from the relief programs established by the government during the 1930s. 

Although not shown as an impact in To Kill a Mockingbird, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study occurred during the 1930s.  This was a study done on black men in the South who had syphilis.  They were told they were being treated for the disease but were not given appropriate treatment.  Instead, the doctors doing the study used them to see the effects of syphilis on the body.  Many men died because of the lack of proper health care.   

A horrific trial of eight black men accused of raping two white women occurred during this time period as well.  The eight men were called the Scottsboro Boys, and their trial helped change attitudes about the injustices and the lack of fair trials in the South.

I hope this helps!

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