For the past century, southern writers have significantly shaped the literary world. Their writing has closely reflected the challenges of our nation, making their work essential American reads. Today, visiting many of their homes is as easy as driving through the neighboring states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
Mississippi is the ideal starting place for your southern literature road trip. Jackson, the heart of southern literary tradition, is home to Nobel Prize award-winners William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Alice Walker, Richard Wright, and Eudora Welty. Oxford, just outside of Jackson, is suspected to be the model for Faulkner’s fictional universe, Yoknapatawpha. In Oxford you can visit Faulkner’s mansion, Rowan Oak, that now doubles as a museum. A nearby home, known as The Sound and the Fury House, is the supposed setting for this critically-acclaimed work. Faulkner fans can also visit his nearby grave.
Close by in Jackson, Mississippi, bibliophiles can visit the Eudora Welty Home and Garden. The home and museum contain the largest collection of Eudora Welty materials. Exhibits are hosted in honor of Welty, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Optimist’s Daughter.
The next stop on the trip is Monroeville, Alabama. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was born and raised in Monroeville, where the book is set. The city prides itself for its literary history, so To Kill a Mockingbird-themed tours are not hard to come by. The Old Courthouse, supposedly the same courthouse that is the central setting for much of Lee’s book, is now a museum that features biographic information about Harper Lee and Truman Capote, Lee’s childhood best friend and author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Each year from mid-April to mid-May, locals host a play of To Kill a Mockingbird. Monroeville, the home of two world-famous authors, is sure to provide the ideal experience for the southern literature lover.
Conveniently located along the drive to Atlanta, Georgia, is the birthplace of author Zora Neal Hurston in Notasulga, Alabama. The author of Their Eyes Were Watching God represents a strong southern literary tradition of black female writers. Located just beside Notsulga is Tuskegee, Alabama, a historical sight for many advancements for civil rights, including Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. At the Tuskegee Institute, tourists commemorate Washington’s contributions to the civil rights effort, including his groundbreaking text Up from Slavery.
Taking a small detour south, travelers can stop by Columbus, Georgia, where literary legend Carson McCullers was born. The home museum is kept up by the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, a local organization dedicated to preserving McCullers’s legacy and educating the public. Nearby in Milledgeville is the home of Flannery O’Connor. Tourists can visit the iconic peacocks and front porch swings of Flannery O’Connor’s home where she wrote the majority of her famous works. Not far north of Milledgeville is Eatonton, the birthplace of Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple. The city of Eatonton has a self-guided driving trail that takes drivers to Walker’s birthplace, childhood church and baptism site, and her mother’s home.
Travelers can leave this trip with a newfound or increased love of literature. Visiting the home of these authors can show the land and culture that inspired them to write their magnificent works.