The film, an adaptation of the Harper Lee novel of the same name, centers on the trial and conviction of an innocent black man in a deeply racist Southern town during the 1930s. Peck's Oscar-winning depiction of lawyer Atticus Finch has been widely heralded as a groundbreaking role that confronted systematic racism in the Jim Crow South.
The president made headlines last month when offering a personal reflection on the shooting death of Martin, an African-American teenager in Florida. Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, has not been arrested in connection with the teenager's death, and critics have suggested race played a role in both the shooting and police department's reluctance to press charges.
Obama said the incident demanded all Americans to "do some soul searching."
“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” Obama told reporters at a Rose Garden press conference. “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative to investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together — federal, state and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."
Those remarks drew criticism from some Republicans, who accused the president of politicizing the issue and injecting race into it.
”Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?” Newt Gingrich, a GOP presidential candidate, said.
The network told the Times that the president agreed to tape the "Mockingbird" appearance in early March.
Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird," applauded the president's decision to commemorate the film in a statement.
“I’m deeply honored that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by introducing it to a national audience,” Lee said. “I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I’m proud to know that Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on — in a world that needs him now more than ever.”