What are quotes in To Kill A Mockingbird that are examples of racial segregation? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of quotations that can be found in To Kill a Mockingbird which exemplify racial segregation. 

  • In Chapter 9 Scout comes home from school and asks Atticus if he defends "n*****s"; he tells her first not to say that word. Then he tells Scout that he does defend Negroes. Scout then asks him if all lawyers defend "Negroes." When Atticus replies that they do, Scout then asks, "Then why did Cecil say you defended n****s? He made it sound like you were runnin' a still."
    In this remark it is obvious that Scout is not acquainted with black people and that there is a separation of races.
  • Tom Robinson, Atticus tells Scout, someone "lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump. He's a member of Calpurnia's church." These statements indicate that the area and churches are segregated.
  • Francis, Scout's cousin, accuses her of loving Negroes when the Finch family gets together at Christmas. Later in the evening, Atticus talks with his brother Jack about the Robinson's case, saying that the evidence comes down to who said what. Atticus adds, "The jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'." It is obvious that the area is segregated because a reprobate such as Bob Ewell is given more credence that the good Tom Robinson simply because Ewell is white and Robinson is black.
  • Further in their conversation, Atticus tells Jack, "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand...." The white is believed in the segregated South regardless of the dubiousness of what is said.
  • Mrs. Dubose's remark, "Your father's no better than the n*****s and trash he works for" places Atticus in the blacks' category, which is apart from that of the white.
  • When Calpurnia takes the Finch children to her church, there is clearly segregation as Lula tells Calpurnia, 

"You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here--they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church , ain't it? Miss Cal?"
Jem said, "Let's go home, Cal, they don't want us here--"

Further, Scout tells the reader that First Purchase African M.E. Church is in the Quarters outside the southern town limits. It is the only church in Maycomb with a steeple, and it is called First Purchase because it was paid for with the first earnings of freed slaves. "Negroes worshipped in it on Sundays."

  • The Maycomb courthouse has seating for the "Negroes" only in the balcony. Mr. Underwood gives the children a disgusted look when he sees them with their black cousin.
  • Dill cries when he hears the cruel way in which Mr. Gilmer examines Tom Robinson, even though he realizes that Mayella and Bob Ewell lie when they give their testimonies.
  • Despite the fact that Atticus has exposed the testimony of Mayella and Bob Ewell as lies, and he has established the good character of Tom Robinson, while pointing out the difficulties of Tom's being able to hit Mayella in the eye with his withered right arm as Mayella has testified, added to the fact that there is no concrete evidence whatsoever, the all-white jury finds him guilty.
  • The Reverend Sykes, having listened to all the testimony and Atticus's disproval of much of what the Ewells have said, tells Jem, who is confident that Tom will be exonerated,

Mr. "Now don't you be so confident, Mr. Jem, I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man...."

He clearly alludes to what Atticus does in his closing remarks,

[The Ewells had] the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen [of the jury] would go along with them on the assumption--the evil assumption--that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber." 

  • Mr. Raymond Dolphus pretends to be a drunkard so that the people of Maycomb will have a reason to give for his odd inclination to live with the black population.
  • Mrs. Merriweather talks about the Negroes' becoming out of hand because there are "some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided." Then she speaks of her maid Sophy's being "sulky" and "dissatisfied."
  • After the trial, Scout overhears Miss Stephanie Crawford saying that "it is time someone taught them a lesson, they were gettin' way  gettin' way aove themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us."  
Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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