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July 13, 2015


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Brian Clarke

At least from the NYT blurb on the book, it certainly looks like the proto-Atticus in GSAW evolved significantly in the writing of TKAM. I honestly may not read GSAW even though TKAM is my #1 book of all time, and undoubtedly the most influential on me personally. And that impact largely came via Atticus.

Al Brophy

Yeah, interesting question of whether Atticus evolved during the writing of TKAM or whether he stayed the same but the times changed. So that someone who was against lynching in the 1930s was seen as conservative in the 1950s. Part of that may be, that it easier to be against lunching than in favor of a robust vision of equality. There's a huge literature on this for the 1950s and 1960s and my hope is that GSAW may be yet another data point about conflicts within the south as it emerged from Jim Crow.


Professor Brophy, as an academic and resident of the Research Triangle, perhaps you can compare and contrast the Scottsboro trials with the Duke lacrosse players case. In both cases, we had racial animus drive an attempt to railroad innocent defendants. There is of course the difference that in Scottsboro, the hatred was directed by poorly educated rednecks filled with anger while in Durham the hatred was directed by those filled with anger who were....faculty members at an elite university. As a professor whose research interests are focused on questions of race, what did you do about this case a few miles away from your office?

Al Brophy

I find comparisons to the horror that was Jim Crow to be in extremely poor taste.


Why, Al? Do you honestly think that going to jail for rape that never happened because it made your fellow professors feel good about themselves was a minor matter?


This is a great discussion of the issues involved in publishing this new work. Having a lively and substantive discussion with on FB with people about the writing process, publishing, race, and law. A real opportunity.

Brian Clarke

Atticus Finch was more than just being against lynching. He counseled Scout and Jem on seeing Tom and other blacks as people, who were entitled to respect, dignity, and politeness in addition to due process. While certainly a man of his time in ways, he was extremely progressive in many more ways. So, to hear that Atticus in GSAW is opposed to integration and railing against the civil rights movement is ... disturbing.

Al Brophy

Thanks for the kind words, AGR. Really appreciatee them.

Brian, we'll all know a lot more very soon.. But I think what you're seeing illustrates how varied the reactions to the civil rights movement was, in the 1950s and 1960s, especially. People who supported the vanguard of the NAACP's campaign, for instance, the opposition to lunching, the campaign for fairer treatment in the criminal justice system, equal treatment in railroad cars, had a harder time with integration of schools. (Or supported eugenics in the 1920s and 1940s, as I'm now hearing that Atticus did!)

Kim Krawiec

Can't wait to hear more from you on this, Al. I was planning to skip it, based on the reviews and questions about her capacity to consent, etc. But your post has convinced me that there might be something interesting here.


The figure of the southern white liberal of that period is interesting to ponder, as you can see just where the lines are drawn when people are forced to think about the true meaning of equality. After all, there were what could be called " liberal" slave owners (people who thought themselves liberal) who called themselves ( as we say in the south) giving forms of respect to black people in a number of small ways. These things never really threatened the balance of power in society. Jefferson had no problem addressing blacks by honorifics, and got into trouble with some southern whites for signing off his letter to Banneker with the usual " your obedient servant" business. He bowed to blacks when they bowed to him. The nanny who looked after his grandchildren was allowed to spank them when they misbehaved. There are many other things that could be cited, but these things did not break down white supremacy or imperil slavery. They are worth noting for they tell us something about the way those societies functioned, and how some people performed under the racial strictures of their time.

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