After protest threats, Shorewood High School in Wisconsin reportedly made the decision to cancel their production of To Kill A Mockingbird. The school issued a statement on the matter mere hours before the first performance was scheduled on Thursday.
According to TMJ4, Shorewood High School decided to cancel the production after some people threatened to protest the play.
“The Shorewood Drama production of To Kill a Mockingbird has been canceled for all three nights of production (October 11,12, and 13),” reads the statement issued by Shorewood Schools Superintendent, Bryan Davis.
“Due to concerns regarding potential protests related to the production, we’ve concluded that the safest option is to cancel the play. The District should have done more outreach to engage in dialogue about the sensitivity of this performance with the Shorewood and greater Milwaukee community. Moving forward, the District will continue to encourage staff and students to engage in meaningful performances surrounding contemporary issues with the appropriate amount of outreach and dialogue.”
While early reports didn’t list the reason for the protests, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they reportedly centered around the use of an offensive word used to describe black people in the production.
One parent responded to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in relation to the cancelation.
“That was never our request. We asked for the word to be omitted,” said Patience Phillips, who is the mother of three African-American students reportedly involved in the protest.
“I understand that the children put a lot of work into this play. This doesn’t create dialogue. It causes more of a division.”
Shorewood High School cancels ‘To Kill A Mockingbird' production https://t.co/9kGQMSqGay— Jerry Grillo (@jjgrillo) October 11, 2018
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that looks at the prejudices between whites and blacks in a small town in Southern America. Author Harper Lee said she loosely based the novel on observations of her own family and neighbors in relation to an incident that might have occurred in 1936.
Although it is unclear which incident inspired the novel, the Telegraph suggests that there were several events at the time that could have been used as inspiration. These include a 1931 incident in Alabama, where nine black teenagers were accused of “raping two white women on a train.” During the trial, one of the alleged victims reportedly admitted to fabricating her story and this led to charges being dropped for four of the nine defendants.
Another incident that occurred when Harper was 10-years-old saw a white woman near Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama accuse a black man of rape. After Lee’s father’s newspaper “printed letters that claimed the man had been falsely accused,” his sentence was downgraded from a death sentence to life in prison.
Likewise, one case that occurred around the time Lee started writing To Kill A Mockingbird saw a black teenager, Emmett Till, murdered for allegedly “flirting with a white woman in Mississippi.”