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MILLEDGEVILLE: FLANNERY O'CONNOR and ALICE WALKER

Flannery O'ConnorAlice WalkerShe destroyed the last vestiges of sentimentality in white Southern writing; she caused white women to look ridiculous on pedestals, and she approached her black characters - as a mature artist - with unusual humility and restraint. She also cast spells and worked magic with the written word. Alice Walker, writing about Flannery O'Connor in Beyond the Peacock.

The eighth child of sharecroppers, Alice Walker was born in Eatonton near Milledgeville, the last hometown of Flannery O'Connor. Walker's actual birthplace, Ward's Chapel, was named for a local Methodist Church built on land given by Sarah H. Ward to freed slaves. Walker's enslaved ancestor Mary Poole walked to Eatonton from Virginia as she supported a baby on each hip.

Born in 1944, Walker recalled the quilting bees hosted by her mother in A Communion of the Spirits: African American Quilters, Preservers and Their Stories: I remember many, many afternoons of my mother and the neighborhood women sitting on the porch around the quilting frame, quilting and talking, you know; getting up to stir something on the stove and coming back and sitting down. Her mother Minnie Lou, a well known gardener in Eatonton, said, A house without flowers is like a face without a smile.

  Main House, Andalusia Farm Cline House, where O'Connor lived from 1939 to 1945. John Marlor Art Center, built in 1830  
 

Main House, Andalusia Farm

Cline House, where O'Connor lived from 1939 to 1945

John Marlor Art Center, built in 1830

 

When the Color Purple author wrote of a pilgrimage with her mother in 1974 to Andalusia Farm - the home near Milledgeville of Flannery O'Connor from her lupus diagnosis in 1951 until her death in 1964 - she said the peacocks in O'Connor's yard lifted their splendid tails for our edification. One peacock is so involved in the presentation of his masterpiece he does not allow us to move the car until he finishes with his show. When Alice commented that the Farm's peacocks were inspiring, even while blocking the car, Minnie Lou responded, Yes, and they'll eat up every bloom you have, if you don't watch out.

  The Old Governor's Mansion, home to Georgia's governors, 1839-1868 Trolley at Welcome Center Towers of Georgia's Old Capitol  
 

The Old Governor's Mansion, home to Georgia's
governors, 1839-1868

Trolley at Welcome Center

Towers of Georgia's Old Capitol

 

The Walkers, mother and daughter, prevailed over the challenges of racial discrimination and sharecropping in the segregated South. Andalusia Farm tells another story of mother-daughter courage. Flannery O'Connor fought lupus - the disease that killed her father - at Andalusia where her mother Regina managed both the farm and her daughter's health care. Her first novel Wise Blood was published after O'Connor moved to Andalusia, and despite her illness, the writer's final thirteen years at the farm were her most productive. A Good Man is Hard to Find was published in 1955, followed by The Violent Bear It Away in 1960. Occasionally O'Connor traveled; she managed a series of lecture tours and received an honorary degree from Smith
College in 1963. In The Habit of Being, she wrote, My standard is: When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.

  Entrance to GCSU Atkinson Hall, GCSU, built in 1896 Mural, GCSU campus  
 

Entrance to GCSU

Atkinson Hall, GCSU, built in 1896

Mural, GCSU campus

 

Mary Flannery O'Connor attended Georgia State College For Women, now known as Georgia College and State University (GCSU), home to the Flannery O'Connor Room in the GCSU Museum and the O'Connor Collection. Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville is opened for tours and features the grounds and the main house much as Flannery and Regina left it.

  New Georgia Encyclopedia

For more information on Flannery O’Connor and Alice Walker, link here to their listing in the New Georgia Encyclopedia supported by the Georgia Humanities Council.

> Flannery O’Connor
> Alice Walker

 
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