At any time during the study of To Kill a Mockingbird, the creation of a timeline can enhance students’ understanding of the story’s sequence of events. In addition, whenever historical events and people are referenced in the text of To Kill a Mockingbird, the timeline gives students an opportunity to physically organize that information.
The timeline can span the years from 1890 to 2000. It should be large enough to be seen from any part of the room. For our purposes, the timeline was oriented horizontally across the front of the room, divided into decades, and color-coded so that literary happenings could be distinguished from historical events.
During the portion of the book that recounts Tom Robinson’s wait for his trial and the formation of a mob outside the jail, the timeline is especially effective for demonstrating to students how pervasive and longstanding the record of violence against African-Americans has been.
Ask students to note the number of lynchings that take place during those years on black cards with white tags and attach them to the timeline. When the students have attached all the black cards to the timeline, ask them to calculate the total number of lynchings that took place between 1880 and 1925. Ask students how the crime of lynching relates to the story and how it impacts Tom Robinson.