Harper Lee was an American novelist best known for her acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), which remains one of the most influential works of American literature. Her debut book became a classic and won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize.
Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. She was the youngest of four children born to Frances Cunningham Finch Lee and Amasa Coleman Lee. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother was a homemaker. Lee grew up in the Southern United States during racial segregation and significant social inequality.
Her hometown of Monroeville inspired the fictional town of Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lee attended Monroe County High School, where she was an avid reader and writer. After graduating in 1944, she pursued higher education at the University of Alabama. There, she contributed to the university's humor magazine "Rammer Jammer" and also became the editor of the campus literary magazine "Corolla." In 1949, Lee dropped out of the university and moved to New York City to pursue a career in writing.
In 1960, Harper Lee published her debut novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book quickly became a literary sensation, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.
The novel tells the story of Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the racially charged atmosphere of the American South in the 1930s, and her father, Atticus Finch, an attorney who defends an African American man accused of raping a white woman.
The novel deals with racial injustice, moral growth, and empathy and is characterized by powerful storytelling and social commentary.
Despite the immense success of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee remained largely private and avoided the spotlight. For many years, she refrained from giving interviews and remained reclusive from public life.
In 1999, To Kill a Mockingbird was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a poll by the Library Journal.
In 2015, Harper Lee published her second novel, Go Set a Watchman. This book was written before To Kill a Mockingbird but was only released as a separate work decades later. It features an adult Scout returning to her hometown and grappling with her father's views on race and social issues.
Harper Lee's contribution to literature earned her numerous honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she received in 2007 for her outstanding contribution to American culture through her writing.
Harper Lee died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 89 in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.