A young Scout watches her father, prominent lawyer Atticus Finch, defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman in the southern town of Maycomb, Alabama.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text “The Great Depression,” Jessica McBirney discusses the various causes and effects of the Great Depression, as well as how America’s economy eventually recovered.
The informational text “From Slaves to Sharecroppers" describes the sharecropping system that emerged after the end of slavery in the United States.
Francis Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was the child of free African American parents. In her adult life, Harper helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad and wrote for abolitionist newspapers. In this poem, Harper describes what it was like to have been discouraged from learning how to read.
Billy Collins (b. 1941) is an award-winning American poet who writes about everyday occurrences to express the deeper meaning of life. In this poem, the speaker reflects on his youth with longing.
“Herd Behavior” describes how individuals change when they are part of a crowd.
In “Excerpt from Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases,” historical activist Ida B. Wells discusses the injustice and horrors of Southern lynch laws, focusing especially on the violence enacted against African Americans following the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an influential African American poet, the son of freed slaves, and friend of Frederick Douglass. In “We Wear the Mask,” Dunbar introduces the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.
In “The Scottsboro Boys,” Jessica McBirney discusses the historic event in which nine black boys were wrongfully accused and convicted of assault.
In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s poem “An Obstacle,” she urges us to remain strong when facing everyday obstacles. Gilman was writing as a feminist during a time when it was not socially acceptable to identify as such.
On the evening of February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American boy from Florida, was fatally shot by a George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and was found “not guilty” by a jury in July of 2013. These are the remarks of President Barack Obama after the trial.
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.
This article details the rise of anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany throughout the 1930s which eventually led to the complete dehumanization and segregation of Jews living in Nazi-occupied territory.