Williams would have turned 100 this month, and towns and cities around the country are hosting fetes in his honor, but none more fittingly than Columbus, the playwright’s birthplace and his home until age 7.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009)
Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s, the struggles and dreams of that time find voice in Skeeter, white, 22-years-old, and clearly out of step with her community’s expectations; and the black maids, including the unforgettable Abileen and Minny, who Skeeter begs to tell their stories.
You’d never know it living here, in Jackson, Mississippi, be filled with two hundred thousand peoples. I see them numbers in the paper and I got to wonder, where do them peoples live? Underground? Cause I know just about everybody on my side a the bridge and plenty a white families too, and that sure don’t add up to no two hundred thousand.
Six days a week, I take the bus across the Woodrow Bilson Bridge to where Miss Leefolt and all her white friends live, in a neighborhood call Belhaven. Right next to Belhaven be the downtown and the state capital. Capitol building is real big, pretty on the outside but I never been in it. I wonder what they pay to clean that place.
Down the road from Belhaven is white Woodland Hills, then Sherwood Forest, which is miles a big live oaks with the moss hanging down. Nobody living in it yet, but it’s there for when the white folks is ready to move somewhere else new. Then it’s the country, out where Miss Skeeter live on the Longleaf cotton plantation. She don’t know it, but I picked cotton out there in 1931, during the depression, when we didn’t have nothing to eat but state cheese.
So Jackson’s just one white neighborhood after the next and more springing up down the road. But the colored part a town, we one big anthill, surrounded by state land that ain’t for sale. As our numbers get bigger, we can’t spread out. Our part a town just gets thicker. – from The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
The pictures, made in Mississippi in the early to mid-1930s, show the rural poor and convey the want and worry of the Great Depression. But more than that, they show the photographer's wide-ranging curiosity and unstinting empathy—which would mark her work as a writer, too. – T. A. Frail, Smithsonian Magazine
“’I started out writing what I thought was going to be a short story in the voice of Laura,’ Jordan says, ‘and as the story grew, I just found myself wanting to hear from other people. As the story got larger, as it embraced these other themes, these larger themes about war and about Jim Crow, I wanted to hear from those people.’" – from "Racism and Family Secrets in Mudbound," by Lynn Neary, NPR Website
North Toward Home, by Willie Morris (New York: Vintage, 2000; and previous editions)
In his 1967 memoir, North Toward Home, Willie Morris recalls his Yazoo City, Mississippi, childhood; college days at the University of Texas in Austin; and his rise to editor-in-chief of Harper’s in New York City. It’s Yazoo City, though, that is at the center of his thoughts, whether returning to childhood memories or comparing life in small town Mississippi with New York City. Born on November 29, 1934, Morris captures time as well as place, skillfully describing how regional and national forces from the 1940s into the 1960s helped shape his identity.
The main street, stretching its several blocks from the Dixie Theater at Broadway down to the cabin that housed Western Union at the bend of the river, was always narrow and dingy, so that the gaudy colored postcard of the ‘business district’ on display in the drugstore seemed more like another place altogether; and out along the highways where the town began there was that raw, desperate, unsettled look, much like towns I later would know in West Texas and the red-clay parts of Louisiana. But down in the settled places, along the quiet, shady streets with their pecan and elm and magnolia and locust trees were the stately old houses, slightly dark and decaying before the descendants became prosperous enough to have them ‘restored,’ which usually meant one coat of white enamel. Even the names of the streets suggested that they might have been there for a while: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Calhoun, and, of course, College, which ran by the high school. – from North Toward Home, by Willie Morris
Eudora Welty: Country Churchyards (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000)
During the 1930s and 1940s the captivating storyteller, Eudora Welty, worked for the WPA taking photographs documenting life in Mississippi, including, Welty explained, “a lot of cemetery pictures.” In Eudora Welty: Country Churchyards, ninety of her images grace the pages, along with comments by Welty on her rambles through her home state. Quotes from Welty’s work also complement the photographs, helping readers connect books and place.
“And here too among my pictures are the gravediggers. I'm afraid they're going to be friends of mine. How did I feel as a stranger taking pictures in small-town cemeteries? For the most part, they were perfectly wide open to that. There were people visiting the graves of their family in a familiar fashion all the time. I discovered all these things myself in my travels. Local people didn't usually pay attention to anybody like me who happened to be wandering through. I didn't cause any stir by taking pictures." – Eudora Welty
“Lorelei Books specializes in local history, and Weeks emphasizes the regional aspect of every category. Its location in Vicksburg, a notable Civil War battle site and the home of a National Military Park, made a large Civil War history collection a natural. Sidelines include note cards with photos by local artists and magazines, such as Delta, with strong regional appeal.” – from ABA Website
“The glossy brochures call it ‘one of the nation's most intact literary house museums.’ But calling it a museum is not fair because it is still a real home, a home alive with the memory of Eudora's presence and passions, of her connections to the world beyond her, of the almost endless stream of writers and artists who would not dare to go near Mississippi without calling on her.” – from “A Shrine to Southern Literature, Slightly Frayed,” by Roger Mudd, New York Times
“Back on Congress Street, when my father unlocked the door of our closed-up, waiting house, I rushed ahead into the airless hall and stormed up the stairs, pounding the carpet of each step with both hands ahead of me, and putting my face right down into the cloud of the dear dust of our long absence. I was welcoming ourselves back.” – from One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora Welty
After a lengthy restoration, Eudora Welty’s House and Garden will be open to visitors. “Reservations are required” tours will be conducted Wednesday through Friday, at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. Call 601-353-7762 or send an e-mail to email@example.com for tour reservations. Visit the Eudora Welty Foundation website for additional information on Welty, the house, garden, tours, resources, and more.
“In our house on North Congress Street in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born, the oldest of three children, in 1909, we grew up to the striking of clocks.” – from One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora Welty
“I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of day, was there to read in, or to be read to.” – from One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora Welty
Paddling the Pascagoula, by Ernest Herndon and Scott B. Williams (Jackson : University of Mississippi Press, November 2005)
Travel with Ernest Herndon and Scott B. Williams through "the last unaltered large river system in the lower 48 states and southern Canada." Floating by canoe and sea kayak, the authors explore the entire 200-plus length of the Pascagoula River in southeastern Mississippi. Along the way, they see "alligators and ospreys," run rapids, explore swamps, and find both refuges and "possible pollution sources." For more information on Paddling the Pascagoula visit the publisher's website.