In the News: Slave Diary Connection That Inspired William Faulkner’s Literature Discovered

William Faulkner
The son of William Faulkner’s childhood friend remembers Faulkner visiting their family home in the thirties and taking notes from a family diary and slave ledger belonging to a wealthy plantation owner named Francis Terry Leak. In 1942 Faulkner’s novel Go Down, Moses was published. This novel is made up of seven connected stories that trace the life of a family and its slaves in the fictional town of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.

Edgar Wiggin Francisco III wanted to keep the diary’s connection with Faulkner a secret because of the darker side of his family's history, but was urged by his wife to share it with the public. Many of the names Faulkner gave to characters in Go Down, Moses, The Sound and the Fury, and Absalom, Absalom! come directly from the slave ledger. Francisco said that Faulkner would rant about Leak’s pro-slavery views while studying the papers.

Leak’s diary and papers are not a new discovery. They were donated to the University of North Carolina in 1946. But the connection to Faulkner is new and an important discovery for scholars studying the inspiration for his body of work.

Faulkner is considered one of the premier voices of southern literature, in good company with Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams. He died of a heart attack in 1962.