When I first read “To Kill a Mocking Bird” I was very young and in elementary school. I found the book in my grandmother’s shelf and, like many children, I was curious. I remember being left with a heartbreaking glimpse of a world I wasn’t ready for. At that point, my young mind didn’t fully understand concepts like injustice and fairness – other than the unfairness of someone else not getting into trouble when I did. Seeing someone be accused and convicted of a crime that he didn’t commit all because of his race opened my child eyes to a world I didn’t know existed. Until that point, I didn’t understand that racism was a thing. I thought everyone was awesome and what made us all different were the things that really mattered: what toys we had to play with. In a way, I think I read it too soon because it broke my idealism early. The silverlining is that it turned me into a person who believed fairness should be extended to all people.
Friday, it was announced that “To Kill a Mocking Bird” author Harper Lee died at the age of 89. Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama, went to school just a few blocks from her home on Alabama Avenue and attended the University of Alabama. Despite never leaving her hometown, in 1961, she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for one of the greatest novels in American literature.
Here are 7 of the most important passages she left us.
1.”Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of (another).There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one.”
2. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
7. “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
Thank you, Harper Lee for filling the minds of so many youth to strive for justice for all people.
Featured image by Gwydion M. Williams/Flickr.