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Home > Start Here > Mississippi > Books, Blues and Barbecue: The Altamont School visits the Mississippi of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams 




My feet took a walk in heavenly grass, All day while the sky shone clear as grass. Tennessee Williams

The Altamont School is a college preparatory school in Birmingham, Alabama, that emphasizes exploration of the literary arts beyond the classroom. English teacher Jimmy Wiygul leads Altamont students on a literary journey to Mississippi - appropriately called the Books, Blues and Barbecue tour - that introduces the young scholars to places that influenced William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and other great Southern writers. The Southern Literary Trail dedicates this page to the photos and quotes of the students who took the October 2008 journey to Rowan Oak and the Mississippi Delta, the cradle of blues music:    

"At Rowan Oak, we were able to see the room where Faulkner slept and his office that had 'The Fable' written on the walls. One of the most interesting things I learned was that he made up a ghost story so that he did not have to re-do the garden for his wife."

"Overall, I could feel the comfort and inspiration through Rowan Oak that Faulkner had felt many years ago."

Altamont students at the gravesite of William Faulkner

Altamont students at the gravesite of William Faulkner

"At Moon Lake Casino, where 'A Streetcar named Desire' was set, we walk through the bar into the main room where tables are set up for us. As we sit around the table, we continue to put quarters into the juke machine and crowd around the pool table to see who is winning or try to call the next game."

"Our visit to the Mississippi Penitentiary was an eye-opening experience. Prison is not the place for us, and we will do anything in our power to not go to prison."


The former Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died

Riverside Hotel, a retreat for blues musicians

"While eating lunch at Rowan Oak in the meadow and looking back at Faulkner's house through the cedar trees, I truly felt the serene feeling about the way in which he lived, and how he viewed life through his works."

"The stars and the gleaming light of the small town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, created a surreal sight for me. The sight of this reminded me of how insignificant I was to the whole scheme of life. It made me realize how beautiful life is and how you should appreciate the small things in life."

  Tutwiler Funeral Home Historical Marker  

"Seeing his handwriting on the walls of Rowan Oak made your realize how real Faulkner was. Also knowing that Faulkner had once walked on those wooden floors and worn those riding boots in his room was incredible."

"Even though the economy is bad and we are in the midst of the longest war in American history, people can forget about that for a while and just listen to blues music and dance."

  Students learn about the Riverside Hotel WGRM Radio Station  

Riverside Hotel historic marker

The former WGRM in Greenwood


"It was an amazing feeling to eat at Moon Lake Casino, where Blanche's husband commits suicide in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and where both Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner visited. It is Uncle Henry's Place now. We ate delicious steaks and twice baked potatoes and played pool."

"The most beautiful southern home, which Faulkner named Rowan Oak, lies on a peaceful plot of land surrounded by gorgeous tall Cyprus trees. The inside of the house proved equally as elegant with tons of Victorian windows and doors allowing streams of soothing fall light to flow throughout."

"We danced all night with the locals and enjoyed listening to some really great music."

  Altamont students visit Sonny Boy Williams Wall Shack Up Inn  

Train station in Tutwiler, Ms., where W.C. Handy first heard the blues

Shack Up Inn


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