Saturday, May 16, 2015

The time Miss Eleanor C. Parker defended teaching Harper Lee’s 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in her Laconia, New Hampshire classroom

By DEAN DEXTER

With the July, 2015 release of Go Set a Watchman, the second novel by To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, the existence of which surprised the literary world and Ms. Lee's many admirers, brought back personal memories of a half century ago.

It was 1964 and another world. 

That summer, after a long debate in Washington not unlike seen in today’s headlines, which included a 54-day filibuster in the U.S. Senate, a landmark Civil Rights Act became law essentially ending legal racial discrimination in the United States.

It was also the year the United Methodist Church voted to open its doors to people of all races, actually to “anyone,” again after lengthy soul-searching and at times a not so pleasant “conversation” among the members of its national conference.

And that fall, in 1964, a veteran New Hampshire school teacher was asked to account for the teaching of the book To Kill a Mockingbird in her high school senior English class. 

The Laconia, New Hampshire of 1964 was very much like it is today. That is, it was a smallish, but vibrant community where everyone essentially knew everyone else, at least somewhat, but because fewer left the city after coming of age, and with no outlying shopping malls to draw people away to shop and work, life in Laconia then was perhaps tighter and more personal.