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Region nurtured artists and authors

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Augusta has proved fertile ground for artists and authors. Here's a sampling.

Erskine Caldwell (second from left) joins film executives at Bush Field, where women protested casting for God's Little Acre, based on Caldwell's novel of poverty and the South. Caldwell, who is best known for Tobacco Road, grew up in nearby Wrens, Ga.   File/Staff
File/Staff
Erskine Caldwell (second from left) joins film executives at Bush Field, where women protested casting for God's Little Acre, based on Caldwell's novel of poverty and the South. Caldwell, who is best known for Tobacco Road, grew up in nearby Wrens, Ga.

JASPER JOHNS: The pop artist was born in Augusta and grew up in Allendale, S.C. He moved to New York in the 1950s and is known for his works in a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, drawings and lithographs.

ERSKINE CALDWELL: A champion of the poor residents of the rural South during the Great Depression, Caldwell is best known for his 1932 novel Tobacco Road, which was reportedly set near Augusta. Though it was meant to be a social protest, the book has been considered to be the basis for backwoods Southern stereotypes.

Caldwell was a correspondent for a time for The Augusta Chronicle . He grew up in Wrens, Ga., where he traveled with his father, a pastor, and saw firsthand the hardships endured by sharecroppers. He died in 1987.

FRANK YERBY: The author excelled at historical fiction. Early in his career, Yerby, who earned a degree in English from Paine College in 1937, expressed his frustrations with racial inequity in short stories that focused on blacks dealing with racism in the South.

One such story, Health Card, earned Yerby an O. Henry Memorial Award in 1944.

He later shifted to historical novels featuring white characters, exploring racial themes in a more subtle way, and found success.

The author of more than 30 novels, Yerby was the first black American to write a best-selling novel (The Foxes of Harrow, 1949) and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for a film adaptation. He died in 1991 in self-imposed exile in Madrid, Spain.

STEPHEN VINCENT BENET: He's noted for the epic poem John Brown's Body, which won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1929. Benet lived in Augusta while his father was commandant of the old Augusta Arsenal (now the site of Augusta State University) from 1911 to 1919.

He's also known for the short story The Devil and Daniel Webster , which was turned into a film in 1941. Benet died in 1943 at the age of 44.

He earned a second Pulitzer Prize, posthumously, in 1944 for his unfinished poem Western Star , about the Western frontier.


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