The Search For Atticus Finch's Origin Story

Jun 7, 2018

Who is Atticus Finch really—an arch-segregationist or a champion of justice? And how do we go about answering that question when going straight to the source isn’t an option?


On this edition of “Two Way Street,” we hear from Emory University historian Joseph Crespino. His search, through manuscripts and letters, to pin down the origin story of Atticus Finch is the subject of his new book, “Atticus Finch: The Biography.”

Lovers of “To Kill a Mockingbird” were shocked when they read Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” and learned that their beloved champion of justice, Atticus Finch, had once been a segregationist who belonged to The White Citizens’ Council. In his new book, Crespino says that Atticus’ dual nature makes sense because he’s based on Harper Lee’s own father, who had a similar duality.

Bill and Joe’s conversation was recorded in front of a live audience at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.