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Unit 4: Research Essay
By: Rachel Keithley
ENG 130
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Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28
th
, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. Her
parents were Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her
father was a lawyer and a descendant of the confederate general Robert E. Lee,
and her mother came from one of the founding families of Finchburg, Alabama.
Harper was the youngest child out of all four. She attended Huntington College
her freshmen year, then enrolled in at the University of Alabama to pursue a law
degree. Soon before her expected graduation date, she moved to New York to
become a writer, and never did get her law degree. She had written several
essays and short stories and shared them with a literary agent, which later
became To Kill a Mockingbird. Her novel was published in 1960. The novel was
based on The Scottsboro trial that took place when she was a kid. Much like
herself at the early age, the character Scout was a tomboy and a bookworm.
Atticus Finch, who is Scout’s father in the story, was a lawyer, much like Harper
Lee’s father in real life. To Kill a Mockingbird received the Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction. In 1962, the novel was made into a motion picture that was directed by
Robert Mulligan for Universal Pictures. The film was a great success and was
nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four of them. Since the novel was
published, To Kill A Mockingbird has become one of the most popular books in
the world, with more than 40 million copies printed in 2016. It’s also the most
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popular banned book in the United States, due to concerns related to the topics
of rape and racism. Harper became very famous and received numerous awards
including the presidential Medal of Freedom that US President George gave
Harper in November of 2007. Over the years, Harper became super reclusive. She
received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama in 1990. In 2005,
she was given a literary award from the Los Angeles public library. In the 2000’s,
Harper moved back to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. After suffering a
stroke in 2007, she moved into a nursing facility until she passed away on
February 19
th
, 2016. She was inducted into Alabama’s Women’s Hall of Fame in
2019.
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References:
Cep, Casey N. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee. Alfred A. Knopf,
2019.
Grimes, William. "Harper Lee, Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Dies at 89." The New York
Times, 19 Feb. 2016,
Homberger, Eric. "Harper Lee Obituary." The Guardian, 19 Feb
Howard, Jennifer Crossley. "In Harper Lee's Letters: Books, Fame and a 'Lying' Capote." The
New York Times, 28 Apr. 2017,
Shields, Charles J. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, from Scout to Go Set a Watchman.
Revised ed., Henry Holt, 2016.

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