Albritton tackles racism in school’s winning essay

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

AHS student James Albritton recently won a “To Kill a Mocking bird” essay contest. | Kendra Bolling/Star-News

Coming from a family of lawyers, one wouldn’t think twice about James Albritton winning a “To Kill a Mockingbird” essay contest – even a statewide one – but it was a feat the AHS freshman said “shocked” him.

“I don’t really like writing, but I enjoyed this,” he said. “I really enjoyed writing on this. I liked it a lot better than writing those useless prompts (random writing assignments), but with this I wasn’t thinking of it as an assignment.”

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is a Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Harper Lee that centers on a real-life event that occurred in 1936. The book deals with serious issues of rape and racial inequality. Atticus Finch who serves as the book’s moral hero, serving as a court-appointed attorney for Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.

Many of the town’s residents disapprove of Atticus defending Robinson, and despite Atticus’ proving that Robinson is innocent, the jury convicts him. While Robinson tries to escape, he is shot to death.

The essay contest began in 2001 to recognize author Harper Lee’s induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor. The essay contest is sponsored by the UA Honors College and the Alabama State Department of Education. Further support is provided by The Alabama Center for the Book, the UA Offices of Academic Affairs, Alumni Affairs and Undergraduate Admissions, and the University Libraries. Student essays are also archived in UA’s Hoole Special Collections Library.

Albritton said he touched on racism and how it pertains to today’s world in his essay.

“I don’t think people have changed that much,” he said. “If (Tom Robinson’s) trial was held today, it might even have the same outcome.

“It was really shocking to think of why Tom Robinson would try to escape,” Albritton said. “People didn’t really have an excuse to act the way they did. They shouldn’t have been racist. I touched on that in my essay. Sadly, racism is widely here today. We all need to realize we shouldn’t make decisions based on race.”

Albritton was chosen the overall school winner in the University of Alabama’s 11th annual “To Kill a Mockingbird” essay contest.

Each participating school chooses a winning entry, and a monetary prize is given to each of the winners. Participants were required to write a 500-750 word essay about how the book speaks to readers in today’s society.

He was awarded $75 for his achievement, and recently was invited to a luncheon and awards ceremony at the University Club in Tuscaloosa. Noted author Rick Bragg, a faculty member of the UA department of journalism, was the featured speaker at the luncheon.

Though he comes from a family of lawyers, Albritton said he prefers mathematics and science, and aspires to be an electrical or biomedical engineer.

In addition to school, Albritton is active in tennis, soccer and basketball. “Soccer is definitely my favorite,” he said.

He is the son of Tom and Amanda Albritton of Andalusia. He is the grandson of Harold and Jane Albritton of Montgomery and Harris and Carol Ann Riggs of Tuscaloosa.