Flannery O’Connor’s Appearances in the Georgia Catholic Diocesan Paper The Bulletin

by Daniel Britt, Mandy Mastrovita, and Donnie Summerlin

The Digital Library of Georgia, in conjunction with our partners at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, recently digitized the historic Bulletin newspaper (1920-1962) and made it publicly available on the Georgia Historic Newspapers website.

The Bulletin was first published in January 1920 as the official organ for the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia and shortly became Georgia’s leading Catholic newspaper.

In 1963, the publication split into two separate diocesan papers, the Bulletin (Archdiocese of Atlanta) and the Southern Cross (Diocese of Savannah). Among the paper’s vast array of content, it [still] includes reviews of Catholic written works.

From 1956 to 1964, Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor regularly contributed to the paper’s book reviews section. However, her first appearance in the publication was where she was credited as a budding cartoonist.

The Bulletin (Augusta, Ga.) 1920-1957, June 26, 1943, page 10

Stephanie Braddy, Director of Archives & Records Management, Catholic Diocese of Savannah, notes that for O’Connor researchers “the articles offer further insight into Ms. O’Connor’s wit and personality, as well as her firmly held beliefs related to writing, and Catholicism.”

Well-known as a devout Catholic, she reviewed 143 titles spanning genres in both nonfiction and fiction, but, more specifically, she almost always explored Christian subject matter.

As evidenced by her desire to review works by controversial figures such as the French Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, O’Connor displayed a deep interest in increasing her intellectual engagement with Catholicism.

Matt Davis, Director of Historic Museums at Georgia College & State University, observes that : “Flannery O’Connor kept a very strict schedule during the last years of her life in Milledgeville.  “Rising early to attend mass, she would then spend the remainder of her morning writing as her health allowed. With easy online access to O’Connor’s work in The Bulletin, the public and scholars of all levels have been provided another window to show how her faith and writing intertwined.”

These reviews were intended for a Catholic audience and focused on religious topics. As a result, they provide insights into O’Connor’s writing process not readily found in her works of fiction.

In his introduction to Leo J. Zuber’s compilation of O’Connor book reviews The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews by Flannery O’Connor, Carter W. Martin remarks, “one of the pleasures. . . is to savor the quality of Flannery O’Connor’s mind at work on the serious intellectual content of her faith. Here is confirmation, if we need it, that her art arose from religious convictions that she subjected to intense scrutiny not only in her heart but in her mind as well.”

Below, we’ve curated select pages from the Bulletin featuring writing by and about Flannery O’Connor. The paper’s run is available on the Georgia Historic Newspapers website, https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/gua1449731/ , and O’Connor’s appearances have been gathered together here.

Selected images: 

O’Connor’s first book review appeared in the Bulletin’s March 3, 1956 issue, an issue in which her collection of short stories, entitled ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find,’ was also reviewed. Regarding her first book review, O’Connor noted to Notre Dame professor John Lynch, “As for fiction, the motto of the Catholic press should be: We guarantee to corrupt nothing but your taste.”

The Bulletin, March 3, 1956. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/gua1449731/1956-03-03/ed-1/seq-15/

In an unusually lengthy three-column Bulletin article, O’Connor reviewed Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s ‘The Phenomenon of Man.’

The Bulletin (Monroe, Ga.), February 20, 1960. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/gua1189460/1960-02-20/ed-1/seq-3/

A front-page editorial for The Georgia Bulletin’s book supplement section, by O’Connor, entitled “Fiction is Subject With A History – It Should Be Taught that Way.” She argues the importance of a firm understanding of the past, writing that “many students go to college unaware that the world was not made yesterday…”

The Georgia Bulletin (Atlanta, Ga.), March 21, 1963. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn22193774/1963-03-21/ed-1/seq-8/

New collection features over 50 years of digitized African American funeral programs from Evans County, Georgia, and are now available freely online.

Selected by statewide cultural heritage stakeholders and funded by the DLG’s competitive digitization grant program, over 3,000 pages of digitized African American funeral programs from Evans County, Georgia, and other Southeastern towns and cities are now freely available in the Digital Library of Georgia and can be seen online here:

African American Funeral Programs, 1960-2022

The collection of 637 individual programs dates between 1961-2022, with the birth dates of the people represented going back to 1870.

Pharris D. Johnson, former mayor of Bellville, Georgia, chairman of the Savannah College of Art and Design Board of Trustees, and Vice President of the Evans County Historical Society says:

“The Evans County Community Center and African American Archive Museum serves our community in an outstanding manner. They accomplish their mission with a small budget and through dedicated volunteers. As we know, funeral programs provide valuable social and genealogical information.  [These materials from] the Evans County Community Center Archives are an important resource for the residents of Evans and surrounding counties.”

Documenting an underrepresented region of Georgia, this collection provides important information for genealogical research and for understanding African American life during different time periods. 

Funeral programs provide valuable social and genealogical information and typically include a photograph of the deceased individual, an obituary, a list of surviving relatives, and information about the funeral service. Some programs provide more extensive genealogical information such as birth and death dates, maiden names, past residences, accomplishments, affiliations, and burial locations. For marginalized populations, this information can often be difficult to find, as the records of many in these communities were often either destroyed, kept privately, or never created in the first place.

The Evans County African American Archive Museum has collected funeral programs for over twenty years. Since then, residents have contributed to the collection. 

Darin McCoy of the Evans County Historical Society notes: 

“[Our] facility operates within an under-served rural county in terms of digitized African American history. However, the Evans County Historical Society alumni and the Evans County African American Archive Museum leadership team are well-known advocates for the preservation and collection of local African American history and artifacts. Our featured displays, public events, and family presentations are unique and emphasize the historical value of these entities. The vision, collections, and the preservation of artifacts, begun over twenty (20) years ago, have now come to fruition.”

Digitization and access have been made possible through the Digital Library of Georgia’s competitive digitization subgrant program and are displayed and searchable within their online portal. The Digital Library of Georgia has also partnered with local libraries and the Georgia Public Library Service to digitize African American funeral programs for people connected to the Atlanta, Augusta-Richmond County, and Thomas County areas. 


About the Evans County African American Archive Museum (Claxton, Ga.)

The mission of the Evans County African American Archive Museum is to provide means for all citizens of Evans County to obtain an excellent quality of life through programs and services. The Archive was the recipient of a 2021 GHRAC Award for History Advocacy. Their Facebook group is: https://www.facebook.com/Evans-County-Community-Center-343942125941003/ 

Selected images from the collection:

Title: Funeral program for Charles L. Bailey
URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/eccca_aafp-ec_ecaaam-470
Collection: African American Funeral Programs, 1960-2022
Courtesy of the Evans County Community Center (Claxton, Ga.)
Description: Funeral program for Charles L. Bailey. Date of funeral service: June 18, 2011. Location of funeral service: St. John Missionary Baptist Church, Claxton, Georgia, 11:00 a.m. Birth date: November 19, 1916. Death date: June 12, 2011.
Title: Funeral program for Earlene Harris
URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/eccca_aafp-ec_ecaaam-632
Collection: African American Funeral Programs, 1960-2022
Courtesy of the Evans County Community Center (Claxton, Ga.)
Description: Funeral program for Earlene Harris. Date of funeral service: November 4, 2021. Location of funeral service: Beulah Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, 11:00 a.m. Birth date: April 8, 1935. Death date: October 28, 2021.
Title: Funeral program for Reverend Lee Jones
URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/eccca_aafp-ec_ecaaam-402
Collection: African American Funeral Programs, 1960-2022
Courtesy of the Evans County Community Center (Claxton, Ga.)
Description: Funeral program for Reverend Lee Jones. Date of funeral service: June 5, 2008. Location of funeral service: Pittman Park United Methodist Church, Statesboro, Georgia, 1:00 p.m. Birth date: October 6, 1926. Death date: June 02, 2008.