Alabama’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Harper Lee, whose birthday is April 26, received many honors during her long life. Lee’s 1960 book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” set in Depression-era South Alabama, became a national bestseller and an Academy Award winning 1962 film.
In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Lee the National Medal of Arts. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Lee the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a timeless story about racial injustice and a young girl’s loss of innocence. Atticus Finch, a white, smalltown lawyer, defends a Black man accused of raping a white woman. One historian described Finch as “the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.”
A critically acclaimed Broadway version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” had a successful run. Its run was interrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown and national protests over the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020. A national touring company continues to perform.
The Floyd tragedy put a critical light on racism in America. While “To Kill a Mockingbird,” once widely read in schools, the book has increasingly been challenged, dropped, and banned from curriculums.
As a Virginian who was raised and educated in Alabama, I know that racial relations between Whites and Blacks are complicated by the opinions and personal histories of the ancestors of Civil War veterans, segregationists, integrationists and the ancestors of enslaved Alabamians.
When we think we have made racial progress, a tragedy like the Floyd murder reminds us that racism remains a problem in our society.
Today’s educators may not want to risk igniting classroom violence over Lee’s book. In the 1960s, the same was true in my Alabama public schools. Some teachers considered the book too controversial for the classroom. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the state had over 30,000 KKK members in the 1960s.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was published at the height of the Civil Rights movement when Alabama’s politicians were ardent segregationists. Lee demonstrated courage by writing the book. It would have been a tragedy if fear had prevented her from writing it.
She was a fearless woman.
In 1962, George C. Wallace was first elected governor of Alabama. His platform was solid segregation. Wallace likely missed Lee’s important message in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
In 2024, I am concerned that Harper Lee, a brave Alabama voice in literature, may soon be canceled by educators who fear classroom violence from students and administrators who, like George C. Wallace, miss the message of Lee’s book. That would be another tragedy.
To keep Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird” in contemporary thought, I recently wrote to the U.S. Post Office requesting a commemorative Forever Stamp in honor of the author. “[T]he topic is under consideration as a possible future postage stamp,” wrote Shawn P. Quinn, Manager, Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service.
Lee died in 2016. Nearly ten years later, it is time for the Postal Service to honor her with a commemorative Forever stamp. It is the right thing for our government to do.
To express your opinion about a Harper Lee Forever Stamp, write to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, 475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, DC 20260.

James Patterson is a life member of Auburn University Alumni Association. He resides in the Washington, D.C. area.