What new things does Scout learn in Chapter 12 about how the black people live in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Scout gets a great first-hand lesson on the lives of Maycomb's black citizens when she and Jem accompany Calpurnia to her church in the Quarters one Sunday when Atticus is out of town. She immediately discovers that Calpurnia wants everyone to be proud of her guests: Calpurnia bathed Scout more "roughly" than ever before--"She made me soap all over twice"--and made her "wear a petticoat" and "a pink sash." The black members of First Purchase Church showed the children deep respect,

... the men stepped back and took off their hats; the women crossed their arms at their waists, weekday gestures of respectful attention.

All but Lula, that is. Lula objected to "white chillun here," and her aggressive nature made Scout want to go home. But the other members soon "created a solid mass of colored people," forcing Lula into the background. The children were personally greeted by Reverend Sykes, and once inside the church, Scout discovered a new wealth of information:

  • The inside was "unceiled and unpainted."
  • There was no organ, piano, hymnals or bulletins.
  • There were no hymnals because few of the congregation could read.
  • They sang their songs by "linin'," with Zeebo (Cal's son) reading each separate line, followed by the congregation repeating and singing them--"miraculously on pitch."
  • The collection was taken in a "black enameled coffee can."
  • Tom Robinson and his family were members.
  • The church was used as a gambling house by white people on weekdays.
  • Calpurnia spoke quite differently with her friends than she did in the Finch home.

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