As Go Set a Watchman opens, 26-year-old Jean Louise Finch travels from New York City to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her aging, ailing father, Atticus. It is the mid-1950s, and many in Maycomb are resisting the advances of the civil rights movement—including, to Jean Louise’s shock, her own father. As she struggles with these revelations, she reaches out to Calpurnia, who has retired from the Finch household but remains an important figure in Jean Louise’s life.
In this lesson, we pair Chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird, in which Scout and Jem attend church with Calpurnia, with an excerpt from Chapter 12 of Go Set a Watchman, in which Jean Louise goes to Calpurnia’s home after Cal’s grandson Frank has been charged with manslaughter. We then provide a historical source, “You Worked Long Hours,” which features domestic worker Essie Favrot’s recollections of the white families she worked for, and Maya Angelou’s poem The Mask, which raises questions about how African Americans concealed their true identities and emotions to survive in a segregated world.
The accompanying discussion questions and activities can be used to guide writing and conversation about these readings in your classroom. (In these activities, we use “Jean Louise” to indicate the character in Go Set a Watchman and “Scout” to refer to To Kill a Mockingbird.)
This lesson can be used to augment Section 3 or Section 4 of Teaching Mockingbird.