To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

"Kill all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."


The purpose of this webquest is to help you learn about the setting and history behind the novel before reading. You will find information about the social climate in the South during the 1930s and American history leading up to the social climate in the South.

The Scottsboro Boys

Your job is to research the Scottsboro Boys. Click on the link below to start learning about them. When you are finished, answer the questions below.

  1. Who were the Scottsboro Boys? How did they get into so much trouble?
  2. Where and when did the Scottsboro Boys' original trial take place? How do you think this affected the outcome of their trial?
  3. What does the NAACP acronym stand for? Why did the NAACP decide not to help the Scottsboro Boys?
  4. The Communist Party came to the aid of the Scottsboro Boys. How did the South perceive the Communist Party, and how was it similar to the perception of blacks? What was the Communist Party's hidden agenda in providing aid to the Scottsboro Boys?
  5. The Scottsboro Boys were not provided with adequate defense lawyers. Please list at least 3 ways in which the defense lawyers were inadequate.
  6. Describe the trials. Were they fair or unfair? Please include at least 3 supporting facts to back up your description.
  7. Were the Scottsboro Boys ever pardoned of their convictions?
  8. The Scottsboro Boys' trial took place during the childhood of To Kill A Mockingbird's author, Harper Lee. Make a prediction about how this trial might be an important factor behind the book.

Growing up White/Black in the South

Your second step is to learn about what it was like to grow up white and black in the South in the 1930s. Please read the links below and answer the questions.

"Growing up Black in the 1930s"
  1. What does Mrs. Barge know about her ancestry? How does she talk about her family?
  2. What were her and her family's living conditions like?
  3. When was the first time she noticed a difference between the lives of black people and the lives of white people? From Mrs. Barge's account, what do you think is the most astounding difference?
  4. What was school like for Mrs. Barge?
  5. What kind of jobs were available to black people int he South?
  6. Were black people allowed to vote?
  7. Mrs. Barge clearly has a different opinion of white people than her father does. What does she say that proves this? How does her perception of white people differ from her father's? Why do you think that is?

"Growing up White in the 1930s"

  1. What do these three ladies have in common about their ancestry? How do they talk about their families?
  2. What were the three ladies living conditions like?
  3. What were these ladies' first experiences with black people?
  4. Did these white ladies every play with their black peers?

Questions over both:

  1. Please compare the three ladies' backgrounds from "Growing up White in the 1930s." How do their backgrounds differ from Mrs. Barge's background from "Growing up Black in the 1930s"?
  2. The ladies in "Growing up White in the 1930s" talk about what made a "good family" in the South. What do they say makes a "good family"? How do you think Mrs. Barge would describe a "good family"? Compare and contrast the three ladies' families to Mrs. Barges family, explain the similarities and differences. Based on your explanation, would Mrs. Barge's family be considered a "good family"? Why or why not?
  3. List the occupations available to black women in the South in the 1930s according to Mrs. Barge's interview. How did these occupations influence Mrs. Barge's perception of white people? How did these occupations influence the perception of black people according to the three ladies' accounts from "Growing up White in the 1930s"?