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JACKSON: EUDORA WELTY, RICHARD WRIGHT & MARGARET WALKER ALEXANDER

  Eudora Welty - Columbus & Jackson, MS
Eudora Welty
Richard Wright - Jackson & Natchez, MS
Richard Wright
Margaret Walker Alexander - Jackson, MS
Margaret Walker Alexander
 

The night sky over my childhood Jackson was velvety black. I could see the full constellations in it and call their names; when I could read, I knew their myths. Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings.

Eudora WeltyEudora Welty was born in a house on North Congress Street in 1909. The state's capitol building separated her childhood home from the Carnegie Library. "Through the Capitol" became Eudora's route to the library: You could glide through it on your bicycle or even coast through on roller skates, though without family permission. Eudora's mother gave very liberal instructions to Carnegie's feared librarian, The Tudor-style Eudora Welty House, Jackson.Mrs. Calloway: Eudora is nine years old and has my permission to read any book she wants from the shelves, children or adult.

In 1936, when she was twenty-seven, Eudora Welty published her first short story. By the 1940s, she was receiving major literary prizes for her fiction. She won the Pulitzer Prize for The Optimist's Daughter, an autobiographical novel published in 1972. Welty's home of seventy-six years on Pinehurst Street is one of the nation's most intact literary house museums. She lived in the house when her first book A Curtain of Green was published in 1941, and the house preserves how Welty lived until her death at 92 in 2001.

Richard WrightRichard Wright's experiences in Jackson, where he lived in the home of a strict grandmother during his adolescence, are recounted in his memoir Black Boy. Wright did not receive the encouragement to read that was lavished upon Welty. When a young schoolteacher, who boarded with Margaret Walker Alexanderthe Wrights, was caught sharing Bluebeard and His Seven Wives with young Richard, she was promptly thrown out of the house. Wright's grandmother set all the rules about fiction and fantasy in her Jackson domain: I want none of that Devil stuff in my house!

Margaret Walker Alexander worked with Richard Wright on several of his texts, and in 1988, she published Richard Wright, Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man, A Critical Look at His Work. Alexander, using the pen name Margaret Walker, wrote Jubilee, a 1966 novel based upon stories of slavery passed down to her. The heroine Vyry is based upon Alexander's great grandmother. In her forward to the novel, Alexander thanks Jackson State College who permitted her leave from a teaching job to write Jubilee. Today, the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center at Jackson State University preserves African American history through archival records and "living memories."

Eudora Welty called Jackson "a region to itself." During the Civil War, Union forces under General Sherman burned and looted Jackson, a railroad hub for the Confederacy. The Civil War left few antebellum structures in Jackson other than the Governor's Mansion and the Old Capitol building --- an early 20th Century playground for Eudora Welty.

  Galloway Methodist Church in Jackson, attended by Eudora Welty.
Video cover of 1951 version of "Native Son" in which Wright played Bigger Thomas.
Mississippi Capitol Building, Jackson.
Eudora Welty and Margaret Walker Alexander
 
  Galloway Methodist Church, attended by Eudora Welty Video cover of "Native Son" (1951) in which Wright played Bigger Thomas Mississippi Capitol Building

Eudora Welty and Margaret Walker Alexander

 

 

  The Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center is located in historic Ayer Hall on the campus of Jackson State University. Governor's Mansion, Jackson, Mississippi. Downtown Church, Jackson
 
 

The Margaret Walker Alexander National Research
Center is located in historic Ayer Hall on the
campus of Jackson State University

Governor's Mansion

Church in downtown Jackson

 

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