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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What qualities of character are revealed in the African American characters we meet in chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

In chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout visit First Purchase African M. E. Church and meet several members of Maycomb's African American community, whose character qualities range from aggressive, prejudiced, and outspoken to compassionate, bold, and resourceful.

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In chapter 12, Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout with her to Sunday service at First Purchase African M. E. Church, where they gain significant insight into Maycomb's black community. When Jem and Scout first arrive, a disgruntled woman named Lula criticizes Cal for bringing "white chillun to nigger church." Lula is portrayed as a bold, prejudiced woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. After their unfortunate interaction with Lula, Zeebo and the other members of the congregation welcome them with open arms. The children are surprised when the congregation follows Zeebo's lead as he sings a hymn and they repeat his words using a technique called lining.

Reverend Sykes demonstrates hospitality and kindness by welcoming Jem and Scout to their church before he proceeds to publicly chastise the sinful members of the congregation. Reverend Sykes is also depicted as outspoken and determined when he locks the church doors until the community collects ten dollars for Helen Robinson's family. After the service, Jem and Scout learn that Zeebo is one of the few literate people in his community, and he is portrayed as an intelligent, talented man. In addition to meeting Lula, Reverend Sykes, and Zeebo, the children also learn about Calpurnia's "modest double life." They discover that Cal is an educated, resourceful woman who can code-switch and adapt to her environment. Overall, Jem and Scout experience Maycomb's black community for the first time in chapter 12 and have the pleasure of meeting some unique, memorable characters.

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