Harper Lee dead: When a school banned To Kill a Mockingbird, she penned this brilliant letter

'I feel that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism.'

Christopher Hooton
Friday 19 February 2016 16:54
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To Kill a Mockingbird might have been praised for the way it dealt with racial inequality, but in 1966 Hanover County School deemed it “immoral”, removing all copies of it from its library.

When Lee got wind of this, she sent the school a letter which was published in The Richmond News Leader (and many years later, Letters of Note).

Along with arguing against the decision very articulately, the author made a contribution to the newspaper’s fund which compensated “official stupidities”, paying for copies of the book to be given to children who asked for them.

Here’s the letter in full:

Monroeville, Alabama

January, 1966

Editor, The News Leader:

Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board's activities, and what I've heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that "To Kill a Mockingbird" spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is "immoral" has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.

Harper Lee

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