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Racism was a fact of life in the Deep South during the 1930s, and there are many examples of prejudice against the black citizens of Maycomb in the novel. Jim Crow laws were in effect, and African Americans were treated as second-class citizens. The black people of Maycomb lived in their own area, the Quarters, and they attended their own all-black church(es). But the African Americans did not have complete control over their own church, since First Purchase was still used for gambling by Maycomb's whites during the week. Although it is not mentioned, the local school was for white students only, and there is no mention of a separate school for black children. Few of Maycomb's Negroes can read or write, and Calpurnia (who did not attend school) was taught by one of her former employers. It was not safe for black people to be in white neighborhoods after dark (note Nathan Radley's promise to use his shotgun on Negroes prowling in his back yard).
The "N" word is commonly used by many of the characters, including the Ewells, Nathan Radley, several of the children, and Miss Stephanie: Even Scout uses it until she is warned by Atticus about its "common" nature. Atticus recognizes early that Tom Robinson cannot possibly be acquitted by an all-white jury of his accused rape of a white woman:
"The jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'." (Chapter 9)
African Americans are not allowed to sit on juries, and they are forced to sit in segregated seating in the courtroom, waiting until all white spectators are seated before entering. African Americans know they must show deference to whites--Calpurnia rarely comments on the ways of white citizens, and Tom is careful to address the attorneys as "sir" (or "suh")--and many of Maycomb's more noted white citizens, such as Mrs. Merriweather, expect nothing less. Aunt Alexandra attempts to keep the old ways alive, employing a black chauffeur and refusing to allow Scout to visit Calpurnia's home in the Quarters. And yet racism exists even among African Americans, as seen by Lulu's attempt to block Jem and Scout from attending her "nigger church."
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