Arts & Culture

To Kill a Mockingbird Turns 60

A look at the Harper Lee classic and its message, then and now

Since its publication on July 11, 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has won a Pulitzer Prize, inspired an Academy Award–winning movie and a box-office-smash Broadway play, and built a permanent nest in the Southern literary canon.

“I think it’s more important to read it today than ever before,” says Tonja Carter, Lee’s former attorney and president of Harper Lee LLC, which preserves the late writer’s estate. “The world is so polarized, but this story tells us how to talk to and live with people you disagree with.” In Monroeville, Lee’s hometown and the inspiration for fictional Maycomb, the courthouse turned museum is dedicated to the author, and murals of scenes from the book adorn buildings along the town square.

Honor the book’s sixtieth birthday this summer by rereading the classic novel or its 2015-released follow-up, Go Set a Watchman, or do something even simpler, as Harper Lee, who went by “Nelle,” would have done: “Celebrate by checking in on each other,” Carter says. “During her life, if Nelle heard of a need somewhere and she could help, she would. After all, Mockingbird is meant to make us stop thinking about our own pain and start thinking about others.”