With the publication of Go Set A Watchman, the follow-up to what many consider the “Great American Novel” To Kill a Mockingbird, the book’s author Nelle Harper Lee and the book’s inspiration Monroeville, AL, are once again in the national spotlight.
A visit to Monroeville is a dream come true for most writers (myself included) but, if you were not in the know, you would never guess that the small town of 6,900 located in rural Southwest Alabama is proclaimed to be the “Literary Capital of Alabama.”
Monroeville, incorporated in 1899 (originally known as Centerville), is the county seat of Monroe County which dates back to 1815. The county sits on the edge of Alabama’s agricultural area known as “The Black Belt” and the edge of Alabama’s “Timber Belt.” These professions make up the backbone of the area’s economy, but not what define it – that would be literary history.
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Wil’s Do-Not-Miss-List for Visiting Monroeville:
- The town (what we consider the downtown area today) was the inspiration for Harper Lee’s small town of Maycomb in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and there is no shortage of ways to celebrate the book and Oscar-winning movie. Tours, readings of the new novel, murals, and statues are a small sampling of how you can connect the book to real life.
Visit the Historic Monroe County Courthouse
- The courthouse dating to 1903 is referred to as one of the most photographed buildings in Alabama due to its architecture, beauty, and being the inspiration for the most famous fictional trial put to print. The trial of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Explore the Ruins of the Family Home of Truman Capote
- The In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s author spent part of his childhood growing up right next door to the town’s most famous resident Nelle Harper Lee. Prior to her success, Lee’s childhood home was razed and turned into a walk-up snack stand now known as Mel’s Dairy Dream. Local resident Rebecca Hardee Brunson details this misadventure in her book “Hardee’s Dairy Dream”.
Have a Little Deep South Adventure
- Venture outside of Monroeville into rural Monroe County and visit Burnt Corn, Ala., which besides having an awesome name is known as the place the Creek Indian War began. This small, spooky map dot is now closer to a ghost town than a community. Walking among the abandoned rotting buildings, you can feel the spirits of the past walking along with you.
Drink the Water
- The small town of Monroeville has produced several world renowned writers such as Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Mark Childress and Cynthia Tucker (to name a few). With so many award winning writers from such a small area, it’s an inside joke in the writing community that there must be something in the water.