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Visiting Eudora Welty's Mississippi Home

WBUR
Monday, March 10, 2014

Funeral services were held this weekend for Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.

Here & Now’s Robin Young visited Jackson a few months ago, and during her trip went to the home of Southern writer Eudora Welty.

Welty’s niece, Mary Alice Welty, took Young on a tour of the house, which Welty lived in from 1925 until her death in 2001.

The home includes Welty’s substantial library, which Mary Alice Welty says is a major draw for visitors.

“They want to read all the titles,” she said. “They want to see what Eudora enjoyed reading.”

The house also preserves Eudora Welty’s writing desk as it was when she was alive.

“She would write on anything available — back of a checkbook, scrap of a paper,” Mary Alice Welty said. “You feel her presence here, really.”

Welty’s writings include the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Optimist’s Daughter” and the short story “Where is the Voice Coming From?” about the murder of civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers.

“She wrote it in one night, right after it happened,” Mary Alice Welty said of the short story. “And it was written out of anger. And she got into the mind of the assassin.”

Eudora Welty later wrote, “I felt I needed to get into the mind and inside the skin of a character who could not be more alien or repugnant to me.”

Welty’s stories were often about the Southern experience, including African-Americans’ experience in the South.

“Toni Morrison remarked that she captured their voice,” Mary Alice Welty said. “In fact, I just heard a paper written by a young black graduate student and she goes through and cites  several stories where — unlike a lot of writers — Eudora would sometimes make the black character the central figure.”

Guest

  • Mary Alice Welty, niece of Eudora Welty.
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