Why is the reference and rebuttal to Thomas Jefferson saying "all men are equal" significant to Tom Robinson's case in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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brodertj eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During Tom Robinson’s trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch references Thomas Jefferson’s writings. When Atticus tells the jury that “all men are equal,” he is not referring to complete equality between the races, but only equality under the law. Another way to understand his meaning is to compare it to the well-known saying that ‘justice is blind.’ Atticus hopes the jury will be able to look past Tom Robinson’s skin color and judge him based on the evidence, all of which points to Tom’s innocence.

Despite Atticus’s oratorical skill, the all-white jury returns with a guilty verdict. Though tragic, Atticus takes solace from the fact that he has fought the good fight, and will continue to do so in the future. At the same time, the reader understands there is still a long road ahead before African Americans in Maycomb will experience equal treatment under the law.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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