Erskine Caldwell papers, 1882 - 2000Manuscript MS-1046


Erskine Caldwell was born on December 17, 1903 in Moreland, Georgia. His childhood was spent traveling throughout the South due to his father's itinerant profession as a Presbyterian minister. Eventually the family relocated back to the state of Georgia, a location that would later figure prominently in Caldwell's novels and short stories. On various occasions Caldwell attended Erskine College, University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania, but he left college before receiving a degree. In 1925, Caldwell moved to Atlanta and began work as a reporter for the "Atlantic Journal." He moved to Mount Vernon, Maine in 1926 and it was there that Caldwell wrote his most famous novels "Tobacco Road" and "God's Little Acre." Both works depict the grinding poverty and troubled race-relations of the Deep South during the Great Depression. A prolific writer, Caldwell wrote 25 novels, 150 short stories, twelve nonfiction collections, two autobiographies, and two books for young readers. Caldwell also edited the influential "American Folkways" series, a 28-volume series of books about different regions of the United States. His most celebrated novel, "Tobacco Road," was turned into a play on Broadway that ran for more than seven years, the longest running play on Broadway for its time. After 1941, Caldwell reported from the Soviet Union for "Life" magazine, CBS radio, and the newspaper "PM." He also wrote articles from Mexico and Czechoslovakia for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Caldwell married four times and had four children. His second wife was Margaret Bourke-White, a war photographer for "Life" magazine, with whom he collaborated on "You Have Seen Their Faces" in 1937. In 1984, Caldwell was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died on April 11, 1987.

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