Press Release

AFT Unveils Special Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird at Human Rights Conference, Announces Renewed Commitment to Teaching Racial Justice

The AFT is distributing 10,000 free copies of the book to educators and staff working in Title I schools to support the teaching of human and civil rights and the American legal system, and to encourage student civic participation.

For Release: 

Friday, October 18, 2019


Leslie Getzinger

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Today, at the American Federation of Teachers’ Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference, AFT President Randi Weingarten announced a special AFT edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, which the union is distributing for free to educators and school staff in Title I schools that serve low-income communities. The three-day conference is filled with hundreds of AFT members, as well as civil, human and labor rights advocates from around the country, coming together to fight for a better life for all and a voice at work and in our democracy, through politics, collective bargaining and collective action.

“When I was in the classroom teaching in New York City, I used To Kill a Mockingbird as a vehicle to address racial inequality and social injustice, and to spark discussion among my students about serious issues in our country that are still serious today,” said Weingarten. “This helpful novel tackles head-on the issues of race, class and gender inequities in our country, but also shows how ordinary Americans can show courage and compassion. I am so glad more educators will have access to this masterpiece of American literature to use as part of their lessons, along with free To Kill a Mockingbird resources and activities on the AFT’s Share My Lesson, so they can lead deep and meaningful conversations about the issues this novel so honestly explores.”

Working with First Book, a national nonprofit social enterprise, and the estate of Harper Lee, the AFT secured the right to commission a special edition of the title, which was first published in 1960 and has become a classic of American literature.

The AFT commissioned more than 10,000 copies. AFT members serving in Title I schools can apply to receive a free classroom collection on a first-come, first-served basis until Dec. 13.

“Our classrooms should be safe spaces for open and honest dialogue, which is why we have pressed so hard for resources to fund our future and for the professional autonomy to ensure that we have the freedom to teach,” continued Weingarten. “Public education is the bedrock of our democracy, and by having books like To Kill a Mockingbird in our classrooms, we can encourage young people to engage in civic participation, ask questions and make a difference in their communities.”

To kick off the release of the AFT special edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, all attendees of the union’s biennial Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference received a free copy of the book.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.