February 24, 2021

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Historical Commission

MONROE COUNTY COURTHOUSE NAMED A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Wendi Lewis, Marketing and Public Relations Manager

wendi.lewis@ahc.alabama.gov, 334-230-2680

 

February 19, 2021

 

Monroe County Courthouse Named a National Historic Landmark

 

(Montgomery, AL) The Alabama Historical Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, announces the National Historic Landmark status for the Monroe County Courthouse.

On January 13, 2021, the Secretary of the Interior designated the Monroe County Courthouse a National Historic Landmark (NHL). This property is joining a select national network of historic places; fewer than 3 percent of the properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places are NHLs. The designation is the highest recognition bestowed by the Executive Branch of the Federal government and reflects the national importance of the site to the American people.

The courthouse has attained national prominence as the inspiration and stage for one of the most beloved books in American history, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). In the novel, Harper Lee not only wrote about what life was like growing up in the American South during the height of Jim Crow, but she also exposed the pervasive racism in the Southern legal system.  The Monroe County Courthouse is the backdrop for this enduring story about the unjust reality of race relations in the South. The iconic courtroom has an especially strong association with To Kill a Mockingbird, since it serves as the fictional setting of Tom Robinson’s trial. Harper Lee wrote that the courtroom was the inspiration for the setting of the trial in the novel, and descriptive details of the courtroom in the novel match those of the one in the Monroe County Courthouse.

“The story from the Monroeville Courthouse brought worldwide acclaim to Harper Lee through its telling in To Kill a Mockingbird and also painted a portrait of Alabamians moving toward social justice at a time when we needed this positive image,” said Eddie Griffith, Alabama Historical Commission Chairman. “By its designation as a National Historic Landmark, we note its importance to all Americans and to those from around the world who make the pilgrimage to Monroeville to stand in that courtroom and reflect on the values of a system of equal justice.”

The Academy Award-winning film that was based on the novel cemented the significance of To Kill a Mockingbird and the Monroe County Courthouse in American arts and culture. Released in 1962, the movie starred actors Gregory Peck and and Brock Peters, as well as a young Alabama actress named Mary Badham. For the trial scenes, the set designers modeled the movie set on the courtroom in the Monroe County Courthouse.

The courtroom, which is the part of the building most closely associated with To Kill a Mockingbird, appears almost exactly as it did in the 1930s when a young Harper Lee watched her father in court. As Lee’s childhood home was demolished years ago, the Monroe County Courthouse represents the best example of a property associated with Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. The courthouse is a vital part of Alabama’s collective story and heritage, and the AHC is proud that it has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. 

 

About the Alabama Historical Commission

Located in historic downtown Montgomery at 468 S. Perry Street, the Alabama Historical Commission is the state historic preservation agency for Alabama. The agency was created by an act of the state legislature in 1966 with a mission to protect, preserve and interpret Alabama’s historic places. AHC works to accomplish its mission through two fields of endeavor: Preservation and promotion of state-owned historic sites as public attractions; and, statewide programs to assist people, groups, towns, and cities with local preservation activities. For a complete list of programs and properties owned and operated by the AHC, hours of operation, and admission fees please visit ahc.alabama.gov.

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