She called the town and its library her "spiritual home." Carson's own childhood home in Columbus, Georgia now houses the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians. Her home (pictured above) was the comfort zone where she completed much of her most important writing—most notably her first two novels. Also, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
, though set in a no-name town in the depression-era South, takes many of its attributes from Carson's hometown.
Carson was outspoken about Columbus, saying that while it was the "source of creative material," she also found it "an intolerable place to live," in many respects because of race relations at the time of her upbringing and later as the Civil Rights movement began to consume her with thoughts of racial intolerance. Says the editor of her autobiography, Carlos Dews
, "[Carson] was indebted to the South for everything. As a place to live, she couldn't be a writer here [her entire life]. But she could be a writer from
here."Boom-to-Bust Mill Town
One of the reasons Carson moved away from the South was because of the oppressiveness of her community; yet she still loved the town. Columbus has a rich, complex history. Built on the shores of the Chattahoochee River, Columbus was founded in 1828 and soon became a bustling mill town. Untouched by Civil War battles, Columbus' mill community and ironworks remained busy throughout the 1860s and sustained the town for the next 50 years. Columbus' textile industry was booming business from 1910 through the 1920s but a disappointing cotton crop and workers' rights disputes nearly drove the textile mills out of business at the onset of the Great Depression. This impacted the people of the town in a variety of ways, some of which are depicted in Carson's first novel.