In the 1950s, a young Harper Lee headed to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. In New York, her childhood friend Truman Capote introduced her to Michael and Joy Brown. On Christmas, 1956, they gave her a check equal to one year's pay to work on her writing, stating:
You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.
This gift gave her the time to write and the impetus to produce something substantive so that she would not have wasted the Browns' money.
Racial prejudice in the South was clearly very much on her mind. Her first novel, Go Set a Watchman—which was essentially a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird—dealt with a young woman coming to terms as an adult with her adored father's deep-rooted racism. Though finally published late in her life, the original draft was revised and became To Kill A Mockingbird, which also deals with racial prejudice.
Lee was clearly influenced in her writing by her childhood in southern Alabama during the Great Depression. While a fictional character, Atticus Finch is based on her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, who was both a newspaper editor and a lawyer. Her novel's publication in 1960 had the good fortune to coincide with the growing interest in the civil rights movement.