Lesson Plan

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: Profiles in Courage

To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee and Mary Badham
Photo caption

Author Harper Lee holding large tire swing with Mary Badham (“Scout”) reclining inside, during a break in filming “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Hollywood.

In an August 1960 book review, The Atlantic Monthly’s Phoebe Adams described To Kill a Mockingbird as “sugar-water served with humor.”

Sugar-water? Far from it.

This lesson plan asks students to read To Kill A Mockingbird carefully with an eye for all instances and manifestations of courage, but particularly those of moral courage. Lesson Two, To Kill A Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933: Profiles in Courage, requires students to study select court transcripts and other primary source material from the second Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933, a continuation of the first trial in which two young white women wrongfully accused nine African-American youths of rape.

Guiding Questions

How does To Kill A Mockingbird frame issues of courage and cowardice against the backdrop of the American South in the 1930s?

Why has To Kill A Mockingbird remained a widely read novel since its publication?

Learning Objectives

Analyze the historical and cultural context of the Scottsboro Trial and the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Compare fictionalized depictions of racism and the judicial system with historical events during the Jim Crow era. 

Evaluate the short and long term cultural and political significance of the Scottsboro Trial and To Kill A Mockingbird.