The Legacy of Harper Lee

Forbes Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Harper Lee, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has recently passed away on February 19th from a stroke in her hometown of Alabama. But, her message is still with us even to this day.

Every high school student has read her most famous novel, a book that challenged the racial injustices and social customs of the 1960s. To Kill a Mockingbird changed the lives of many throughout America and left a huge legacy.

Little was actually known about Lee. She was born on April 28th, 1926 as Nelle Harper Lee. Her childhood was very similar to that of her novel’s protagonist, Scout Finch. She grew up in a small Alabama town during the 1930s as the daughter of a lawyer, and was well aware of the racial injustices and unfair court cases that plagued the southern states. It would take her many years before she voiced her opinions about these injustices in her writings.

In 1960, Lee published her life-changing novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which shed light upon the racial situation in the south. Although offered many times, she had always declined public appearances. She had also rarely talked to reporters about her writing. After writing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee knew that she had said what she had needed to say.

According to author Garrison Keillor, Lee was “A woman who knew when to get off the train.” Lee never wanted to meet with the press, her fans, or even Oprah. She much rather preferred to keep to herself.

The legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird is a strong, unbreakable one. Even today, long after segregation has “ended,” we still read the same story that children have read for decades. The reason we still read this book today is because of its message. Racism still exists today, and will continue to exist unless we are educated about the things that have happened in the past. If we are educated about what happened in our nation’s past, then we can prevent it from happening again in our own lives.

Her strong message will continue to live on in America for as long as we remain a united nation. Harper Lee’s writings and opinions will never disappear from American hearts.