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Eudora Welty - Columbus & Jackson, MS

Eudora Welty

I have been told, both in approval and in accusation, that I seem to love all my characters. Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty loved the characters in her fiction because she knew them. She especially knew Southerners with all their complexities, both good and bad. She wrote in her May 1980 preface to The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty: That hot August night when Medgar Evers, the local civil rights leader, was shot down from behind in Jackson, I thought, with overwhelming directness: Whoever the murderer is, I know him: not his identity, but his coming about, in this time and place. The shock and revolt of the killing pushed its way up through a long novel I was in the middle of writing, and was finished on the same night the shooting had taken place.

Eudora was born in 1909 in Jackson and spent her childhood on North Congress Street where she grew up to the striking of clocks. The oldest of three children, Eudora responded to a family environment that encouraged reading and knowledge. The local librarian, Mrs. Calloway, was instructed by Eudora's mother to lend any book - excepting Elsie Dinsmore - to her daughter.

Music was a frequent visitor to North Congress: Our Victrola stood in the diningroom. In One Writer's Beginnings, Eudora remembers, I was allowed to climb onto the seat of a diningroom chair to wind it, start the record turning, and set the needle playing it.

The Tudor-style Eudora Welty House, Jackson.No reminders are needed that Eudora became one of the South's most celebrated and beloved writers, both within the region and outside of it. From her home at 1119 Pinehurst Street in Jackson, she wrote almost all of her fiction and essays that earned her the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the Gold Medal for the Novel, the French Legion of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Welty House and Gardens on Pinehurst are now opened to the public and preserve the things that Eudora loved: photos, cookbooks, books by other writers, records, art given to her by friends. Her collection of souvenirs from global travels defy any notion that Eudora was a stay-at-home great aunt.

In fact, Eudora's importance as a chronicler of her times - beyond her writing - continues to emerge. She was a prolific photographer and the Museum of the City of New York is hosting an exhibition of 50 black-and-white photographs she took in Mississippi during the Great Depression. As stated by the Museum about Eudora and her pictures, these photographs capture America in the depths of the Great Depression revealing a compassion and sensitivity towards her subject that also became a hallmark of her writing.

Eudora WeltyIn the Introduction to her superb book, Eudora Welty, A Biography, Suzanne Marrs writes of her friend: Over the course of her ninety-two years, Eudora engaged the world with all her powers and never retreated into a single, narrowly defined role. Openness to experience complemented her creative genius and helped her to produce some of the most memorable fiction of the twentieth century. The Southern Literary Trail is honored to be part of the Eudora Welty Centennial Celebration. Click here for a complete schedule of events for the Welty Centennial in 2009. Click here for Welty Centennial Travel Packages.

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