In the 60 years since Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of the most widely read books in middle school, was published, the lens through which it frames race and its Black characters has come under scrutiny. PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan spoke with the National Book Foundation’s executive director, Lisa Lucas, about the book’s place in the canon today, at a time when Black people are clamoring to be at the center of the story.
Lucas said that the book falls short in its portrayal of systemic racism in America. “One person can’t change the hearts and minds of every single person in the nation,” she said. While she doesn’t take total issue with the book (“…it does have a very strong moral core in many ways,”), she says that it “doesn’t tell the whole story…I think that we have to revisit each of the things that we’ve loved and not necessarily throw them out, but to actually look at all of them and say, what do they mean together? What do they mean now? What do they mean to us in 2010 or 2001 and what do they mean in 2020?”