"Atticus Finch: The Biography" By Joseph Crespino

Aug 13, 2018

Joseph Crespino is the Jimmy Carter Professor of history at Emory University. He is the author of "In Search of Another Country," winner of the 2008 Lillian Smith Book Award from the Southern Regional Council, and "Strom Thurmond's America."

The publication of "Go Set a Watchman" in 2015 forever changed how we think about Atticus Finch. Once seen as a paragon of decency, he was reduced to a small-town racist. How are we to understand this transformation?

In "Atticus Finch," historian Joseph Crespino draws on exclusive sources to reveal how Harper Lee's father provided the central inspiration for each of her books. A lawyer and newspaperman, A. C. Lee was a principled opponent of mob rule, yet he was also a racial paternalist. Harper Lee created the Atticus of Watchman out of the ambivalence she felt toward white southerners like him. But when a militant segregationist movement arose that mocked his values, she revised the character in "To Kill a Mockingbird" to defend her father and to remind the South of its best traditions.