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The Help - Summary

Near the end of the 19th century, Mississippi's political leaders change the State's constitution. These changes force educational requirements on potential voters. The law requires voters to either read or interpret the state's Constitution.

Whites registering voters ensure that few blacks, if any, become voters. The Supreme Court agrees that Mississippi’s controversial law is constitutional.

Encouraged by that ruling, other Southern states follow the same path and pass similar unfair laws. These biased laws become known as “Jim Crow” laws. 

During the Jim-Crow era, many terrible incidences lead to an increasingly repressive culture. African-Americans are harassed, tortured or even murdered. One example occurs in August of 1955.

Emmett Till, a fourteen year-old African-American boy from Chicago, visits relatives in Mississippi. There he experiences racial intolerance under Mississippi’s Jim-Crow conditions. Two white men torture and murder young Emmett. They think he is acting above his status.

These two white men are not punished for their crime. An all-white Mississippi jury finds them “not guilty.” Emmett’s mother insists that her son must have an open-casket wake and funeral. She wants the world to see how blacks are being treated in some parts of America.

To expand the black-voting population, black-and-white supporters of civil rights come together during "Freedom Summer." These supporters cover the state of Mississippi to help African-Americans register as new voters. Despite the violence of "Freedom Summer" –1,000 arrests, 80 beatings, 6 murders, 35 shootings and 65 bombed or burned-out buildings – civil-rights workers maintain their focus. The workers often sing "We Shall Overcome." 

The Help is a fictional story but portrays real events which happened in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s when Jim Crow conditions are in effect. In addition to clips from the movie, follow links in the story to read whole chapters from The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

In the movie and book, veteran maid/nanny Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) provides the narration for the story. Aibileen is a widow who also lost her only son. She takes pride in the seventeen white children whom she has raised.

Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns home from college with a journalism degree. Unlike her female peers, Skeeter wants to work. She gets a job as a newspaper columnist. She chooses to write about Jackson's black help.

After promising not to reveal Aibileen's identity, Skeeter secretly meets with her to collect information for a tell-all book. 

The murder of Medgar Evers (a real event which takes place in Jackson) prompts even more maids - Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) among them - to tell Skeeter their stories. When it is published, Skeeter’s book scandalizes the town of Jackson.

In this story behind the movie, learn how blacks are treated as second-class citizens, are denied their civil rights, are segregated from the white population and are tortured - and sometimes murdered - if they fight against the conditions. See pictures of Mississippi from both the story-time period and today.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5123stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016


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"The Help" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2011. Oct 18, 2017.
       <https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/The-Help/Summary>.
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