The Legacy That Harper Lee Left Behind

Harper Lee inspired generations to fight for fundamental human rights.

The ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ legacy must never be forgotten, rather it must be remembered because in many ways it is the cornerstone of the rights we have fought to ingrain into our society.

I read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ when I was about twelve years old, and Atticus Finch stole my heart. Many people read this book because it was a compulsory GCSE or A-Level read, but I must admit I read it because I had already been through every book in the child’s section of my local library.

While books like ‘Wuthering Heights’  had grabbed my heart and enticed my imagination, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’  is the book that changed my life. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Harper Lee inspired at least two generations of lawyers, and I don’t think we will be the last.


The words “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk in around it”  touched my inner justice warrior, it made me realise that someone had to be there to understand the misunderstood, and to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. It shows that people should be regarded as people; not people of colour, not people with a specific religious point of view, not people of a particular sexual orientation, but as people of the world.

Today one of the greatest literary geniuses died and today I remembered the reason I am struggling through the pain of Land Law and the stress of keeping my head above water in a degree that challenges me everyday. Harper Lee made me want to become a human rights barrister, she made me want to fight for what is fair and just, she made me want to uphold the rule of law and to help those that are being persecuted for simply being themselves. Harper Lee has given her readers something to believe in, something they must strive to make true, something to base our whole society on.

“But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockerfeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court…In our courts all men are created equal.”

I have had conversations with people who suggest that if we leave the European Union, we won’t need a new Human Rights Act, or a Bill of Rights of some description. I ask how, in the wake of the death of this great author, one can even consider repealing the Human Rights Act and leaving us without the protection of being persecuted for simply being us. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’  shows Atticus’ children learning that the world is a harsh place and that 1930s Alabama was a place where racism was accepted and where white supremacy reigned.

Our human rights protection makes sure we are treated as people who are just people, regardless of what we look like, what we believe, and who we love, and this novel reminds us how important this protection is. Harper Lee inspired generations of lawyers to fight for these rights and this is the legacy that her literacy left behind. A legacy which has made the world, and the lives of those whom are seen as minorities, a better place.

The legacy left by Harper Lee and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ must never be forgotten, rather it must be remembered and praised for generations to come, because in many ways it is the cornerstone of the rights we have fought to ingrain into our society.