To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 14-17

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12734

Although outlawed in the United States, racial prejudice still exists. Things aren't as bad as they were in the early years of the nation, especially in the South. Learn the horrors of Jim Crow laws!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


How do you think different characters in To Kill a Mockingbird would perceive the group of people in the picture above?

As you have read, Maycomb is a southern town with a variety of demographics.

In Chapters 1-4, you explored how the town was divided by geographic location between the townspeople and the country dwellers. In Chapters 10-13, you learned how Atticus and Aunt Alexandra had differing opinions of how social class was determined in the town and what role family history played in creating each character's perception of class. (Check out these Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar if you need to review.) In this lesson, you will learn another way in which the town is divided: racial identity.

You've already encountered black and white characters in Maycomb in the earlier chapters of the novel. In your notebook or journal that you've been keeping since the start of this series, quickly list as many white and black characters as you can remember. Also, see if you can remember that person's occupation if it is an adult. When you've finished your list, take a moment to examine and evaluate your findings.

  • Do you notice any trends or commonalities divided along racial lines?
  • For example, what types of professions do the black characters tend to hold versus white characters?
  • Who are the only adults who don't have an occupation?

Like many of the early twentieth-century southern towns and cities on which Maycomb was modeled, Maycomb is divided by racial lines, social class, gender, and family history (legacy). During the period between the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War and the Civil Rights era, nearly 90 years elapsed under what has been termed "the Jim Crow era." This term is a derogatory phrase that originated in the early nineteenth-century South to refer to black people. The term was used in the twentieth century to refer to the laws and practices that segregated the black and white populations — primarily in the South — although there were forms of segregation practiced in areas of northern states as well.

To learn more about laws under the Jim Crow era that legally separated blacks and whites, read the following article (you will need click on the bottom of the page, "Continue to page 2," to finish the article). As you read, answer the following questions in your notebook or journal:

  • What laws were passed under the Civil Rights Act of 1875?
  • What Supreme Court case nullified the Strauder vs. West Virginia case (1880), and what effect did this reversal by the court have on justice for black citizens?
  • What was the subject of the Plessy vs. Ferguson case (1896) and how did the ruling affect black citizens?
  • Even though the Supreme Court did not overturn the legal precedent set by Plessy vs. Ferguson in the Gaines vs. Canada case (1938), how did the Supreme Court make it more difficult to maintain segregation?
  • Who was the first African American to serve as a Supreme Court justice, and when was he appointed?
  • What set of four cases ultimately overturned the ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson?

Now, read The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow: A National Struggle – The Supreme Court, by Tsahai Tafari,

  • Since To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930s, how do you think these laws affected life in the town for both black and white residents?

Record your thoughts in your notebook or journal.

Once you've finished reading the article and answering the questions, read Chapters Fourteen through Seventeen in the novel. Use the copy of the novel that you obtained for the first lesson in the series. As you read, take notes on how racial issues are explained in the novel.

  • How do Scout and Jem perceive race?
  • How do adults look at the issue of race?
  • How does the Tom Robinson case affect the way people think about race in Maycomb?

When you've read the chapters and taken notes in your notebook or journal, move on to the Got It? section to check your comprehension of these chapters and explore their themes in more depth.

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