Why is this quote important? Lula stopped, but she said, "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?" (Lee 158).
In Chapter 12, Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to First Purchase African M. E. Church for Sunday service. As they enter the church, Lula, one of the members of the congregation, approaches Calpurnia and asks her why she brought Jem and Scout to church. Lula mentions that Calpurnia has no business bringing white children into a black church. Calpurnia informs Lula that the children are her company and says, "It's the same God, ain't it?" (Lee 158) Jem feels awkward and tells Cal that she should take them home because they aren't "wanted" in her church. Zeebo, Calpurnia's son, walks up to the children to greet them and tells Jem not to worry about Lula. Zeebo says that Lula is just contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to "church her." The rest of the congregation is happy to meet the children and treat Jem and Scout with kindness and hospitality.
Lula's negative comment to Cal about bringing white children to their African American church is important because it illustrates the resentment towards white community members in segregated Maycomb County. The setting of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in 1930's Alabama. During this period, Jim Crow laws were enforced throughout the South that segregated the white and black communities. White people worshipped at an exclusively white church, and black people had a separate church of their own. Lula is commenting that the white children should go to their "white-only church" because race segregates the community. This scene depicts the prejudiced tensions from certain individuals in the African American community. Throughout the novel, white people are portrayed as the only individuals who support segregation and contempt for the opposite race. Lula's character shows the audience that there are members of the black community who share prejudice against white people.
This quote by Lula is representative of the general feeling of a portion (but not the entire sum of) the Maycomb community. The feelings of oppression, resentment, social injustice, angst, and rebellion are omnipresent, but they become even more evident during the Tom Robinson trial. As Atticus Finch said, that Maycomb summer was to be hotter than ever. Not only will it be intensely awful in terms of temperature, the circumstances will also help inflame tempers already sensitive to old wounds.
Lula's words are a product of her time. Maycomb, like many other Southern cities in the 1930s, experienced a deep divide that dated back to the days of slavery. This divide was racial, social, and historical. It was a separation that had persisted for generations, to the point that even worshipping God had to be done separately.
Now, Lula's words may sound mean, but she does have a point. Her church and her congregation are also a product of her time. They existed out of the historical need for African American people, who were subjugated by a white majority, to feel safe and worship freely. Her words say that much. She is resentful and angry. All that is fair.
Still, society is not meant to operate in a divided manner. Unity is what makes society stronger. This is the lesson of this chapter. The others knew that the best course of action was to let the children in.
Zeebo, the garbage collector, for example, gracefully welcomes them. This shows that, though Lula was being divisive when she said, "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?" she was only one voice amongst hundreds of others who wanted to live their lives in peace.