The wonderful blog Letters of Note has republished a sharp note penned by Harper Lee, early in 1966, and addressed to the editor of the Richmond News Leader. Lee is understandably upset that the Hanover County public schools had banned her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), calling it “immoral.” Enclosed in Lee’s letter was a contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund, established by the newspaper in 1959 to call attention to “official stupidities.” The paper apparently used the money to provide any child who asked a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Editor, The News Leader:
Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.
Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that “To Kill a Mockingbird” spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is “immoral” has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.
I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.
IMAGE: Harper Lee enjoying a cigarette on her porch