The beloved American Author Harper Lee was born today, April 28, in 1926. Her fiction works have become literary classics, like To Kill a Mocking Bird, among other modern American Literature. The literary icon has lived on through her works, and they have since sparked necessary conversations around racial injustice. We’re taking a closer look at her early life, groundbreaking novels, and some of her most inspiring quotes.
Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. She was the youngest of four children. Her family often called her a tomboy. Lee’s father worked as a lawyer, and her mother suffered from a mental illness. At the time, her mother’s mental illness was referred to as a “nervous disorder.” Besides being a member of the Alabama state legislature, her father also owned part of the local newspaper in their town.
In secondary school, English literature piqued Lee’s interest which she carried on throughout her life. After graduating high school, Lee attended an all-girls school, Huntington College, in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1944. She became an avid writer and a member of her school’s literary honor society.
Growing up, Lee was known for being a very independent person. This characteristic was leading her to focus on more important things in life, like her passion for writing. She transferred to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, where she wrote for the school’s newspaper and humor magazine. Soon after, she got accepted into the university’s law school in her junior year of undergrad. After a short-lived experience in law school, she knew that writing had been her one true calling.
Her Life in Writing
Arriving in New York City at 23, Lee struggled to make ends meet while she worked as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines. However, after meeting Broadway composer Michael Martin Brown, she found herself with a little bit of luck. After becoming close friends with Brown and his wife, they offered to house Lee while she devoted most of her time to writing her first novel. Additionally, the Browns played a vital part in getting Lee’s work in front of the right set of people.
They helped her find a literary agent named Maurice Crain. Fortunately, Crain displayed Harper Lee’s work to a publisher, J.B. Lippincott Company. While working alongside editor Tay Hohoff, Lee created the manuscript for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Her book became one of the most classic literary novels of all time.
Notable Works & Quotes by Harper Lee
Although we celebrate her career widely today, Harper Lee only published two books. It may be surprising to learn this, considering how much of an effect her work has had on the world. She published her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960 and her second, Go Set a Watchman, in 2015. Additionally, she worked on one of Truman Capote’s most famous novels, In Cold Blood. Her first novel became a staple in modern literature with an emphasis on racial justice.
Her most notable work, To Kill a Mockingbird, is believed to be inspired by Harper Lee’s childhood in Monroeville, Alabama. Reading the plot, one can see the similarities with her real-life experiences. The father figure and lawyer character, Atticus, resembles the description of her father. The case in the novel is reportedly based on her father’s experience when he served as a defense attorney for two African American men accused of murdering a white storekeeper. Harper Lee has turned this story into a lesson in racial injustice and the moral responsibility of uplifting marginalized voices.
96 Years of Lee
We’re celebrating Harper Lee’s 96th birthday the only way we know how, re-reading her classic To Kill a Mocking Bird. Lee has inspired us to follow our passion for writing, stay true to ourselves, and the importance of lifting marginalized voices. The literary icon will live on through her notable works, quotes, and the people she has influenced throughout her lifetime.
Looking to learn more about author Harper Lee? Keep reading here.