Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lillian Smith on Segregated Health Care

While being treated for the cancer that eventually took her life, Lillian Smith wrote an intriguing letter to Charles S. Johnson, excerpted in Sidelines Activist: Charles S. Johnson and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Richard Robbins.

"At Emory Hospital, in the Winship Cancer Clinic where I seem to spend a large portion of my time, there is a corridor where we cancer patients sit. It is lined with all those people, some almost dead, all sick all worried even though trying to be tremulously helpful. There we sit: malignant human beings. And down the corridor, a few steps, there is drinking fountain with a sign over it. For Whites Only. There is not a Negro patient in Winship. Yet that sign is up. And we cancer patients, gnawed on by our disease, sit there looking at each other and every once in a while one of us gets up and walks over to the drinking fountain for a sip of water. I wonder how many of them take pleasure in seeing that sign. How many of them, facing their dread disease, care now about white supremacy. I want to ask them, Do you care? Does it make any difference to you now? We are levelled pretty low by this cancer business, do you still think you are superior because you have a white skin? But if I said it, I suspect the Emory authorities would think I had lost my mind and should not be there. ah . . . what a world we live in. What a world.

"My warm regards to you, to Marie, and to all the nice people I know at Fisk."



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Honoring Lillian Smith

Lillian Smith Book Awards Ceremony

Dekalb Public Library

September 5, 2010

2:30 p.m.

From "Bill's Book Blog" by the Georgia Center for the Book

Lillian Smith was one of Georgia’s most distinguished — and certainly controversial — writers. She was white, liberal and outspoken about racial issues at a time, in the 1930s and 40s, when her native region remained in the tight grip of Jim Crow laws. She boldly and insistently called for an end to segregation. And her 1944 novel “Strange Fruit” focused on illicit interracial love.

In 1966, shortly after her death when the South struggled with the desegregation effort, the Southern Regional Council created a book award in her name: the Lillian Smith Award would recognize books of outstanding accomplishment, whether for literary merit or moral vision, that honestly examined the people, promises and problems of the South. Since then, more than 50 books have been honored with a Lillian Smith Award, and among the authors are Eudora Welty, John Egerton, Natasha Trethewey, Anthony Grooms, Peter Taylor, Will Campbell and C. Vann Woodward.

The Southern Regional Council now shares the administration of the Lillian Smith Award with the University of Georgia Libraries and the Georgia Center for the Book. Together, we’ll honor this year’s winners at the upcoming AJC Decatur Book Festival over the Labor Day weekend. Specifically, the ceremony to present the winning authors with their 2010 honors will take place at 2:30 – 3:15 p.m. in the Decatur Library Auditorium on Sunday, September 5. We cordially invite you to come and learn more about these remarkable books.

There are two books chosen for the award this year. Charles W. Eagles, a long-time history professor at the University of Mississippi, will be honored for his powerful, compelling book, “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss” (University of North Carolina Press). This is a definitive moment-by-moment account that traces in all its complexity ”James Meredith’s courage against the intransigent white racism of a university that surely knew better.” It is a significant, deeply researched narrative of the 1962 desegregation of Ole Miss that remains one of the landmark events in the struggle for African American equality and justice.

The other book to be recognized on September 5 is “Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940″ (University of North Carolina Press) written by Amy Louise Wood, who is assistant professor of history at Illinois State University. Utilizing an amazing number of resources, including early films and photographs, she writes insightfully about the culture of lynching and those who watched the brutal executions of more than 3,000 African Americans during that period. Her book is “an important contribution to our understanding of the American South and violence there” and demonstrates how beliefs in white superiority were reinforced by the spectacle of lynching.

Both of these books give lie to those who find history dry. While written by scholars and buttressed with careful research, they explore with riveting perspective events and people from our past whose lives and decisions have helped create our region, our nation. They reflect vividly on conversations about race in America we confront today, whether those conversations focus on President Obama or Dr. Laura. They are also reminders of the deep truths of William Faulkner’s words: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Lillian Smith Book Awards Announced

From the Atlanta Daily World
Published: Friday, August 27, 2010 6:03 AM EDT
Athens, Ga. -- The Southern Regional Council, the University of Georgia Libraries and DeKalb County Public Library/Georgia Center for the Book will present 2010 Lillian Smith Book Awards to Amy Louise Wood, author of "Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940," and Charles W. Eagles, who wrote "The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss," on Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m. during the Decatur Book Festival.

The SRC established the awards shortly after Smith's death in 1966. Internationally acclaimed as author of the controversial novel, "Strange Fruit" (1944), Smith was one of the most liberal and outspoken of mid-20th century Southern writers on issues of social and racial injustice. The Lillian Smith Book Awards honor those authors who, through their writing, carry on Smith's legacy of elucidating the condition of racial and social inequity and proposing a vision of justice and human understanding.

After Smith’s death, her family donated the historic collection of her letters and manuscripts to the UGA Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The winners were chosen out of 43 nominations, and both authors have connections to the program: Eagles is a previous recipient of the Lillian Smith Book Award, and Wood served as an intern with the Southern Regional Council. Both books also were published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Wood, a history professor at Illinois State University, chronicles the lynching of more than 3,000 African Americans in the 50-year span she studied.

"Wood unearths photographs, early films and local reports and records to explore the critical role lynching spectacles played in establishing and affirming White supremacy in towns and cities experiencing great social instability and change at the turn of the century," according to the UNC Press. "Wood also shows how the national dissemination of lynching images fueled the momentum of the anti-lynching movement and ultimately led to the decline of lynching."

Her book also was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in 2010. In addition to this book, Wood co-edited, with Susan Donaldson, a special issue of Mississippi Quarterly (Spring 2008) which focused on lynching, representation, and memory, and she is currently editing the volume on violence for the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press). In 1997, she worked as an intern for the Southern Regional Council.

Eagles draws from previously untapped sources, including FBI files and James Meredith's personal papers, to chronicle the desegregation of Ole Miss in 1962. In describin
g Meredith's family background and U.S. Air Force service, Eagles paints a portrait of a complicated man who endured constant hostility, death threats, isolation and pressure in order to defiantly integrate a university which, along with most of the state, had aggressively resisted.

Eagles is a professor of history at the University of Mississippi, where he has taught since 1983.

In 1993, his "Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama" won the Lillian Smith Award for nonfiction. His other books include "Jonathan Daniels and Race Relations: The Evolution of a Southern Liberal" (1982), "Democracy Delayed: Congressional Reapportionment and Urban-Rural Conflict in the 1920s" (1990), and, as editor, "The Civil Rights Movement in America (1986)." His articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the Journal of Southern History, the Historian, the Journal of Mississippi History, and the New York Times.

For more information, see http://

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Southern Regional Council Announces the Lillian Smith Book Award Recipients for 2010

Atlanta - Two exceptional books will be recognized with this year's Lillian Smith Book Awards. These awards were established in 1968 by the Southern Regional Council (SRC) to recognize authors whose books represent outstanding achievements demonstrating through literary merit and moral vision an honest representation of the South, its people, its problems, and its promise.

This year's Forty-Second Anniversary Awards Ceremony is a partnership between the Southern Regional Council, the University of Georgia Libraries, and the Georgia Center for the Book. It will be presented in connection with the Decatur Book Festival at the Dekalb Public Library on Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.

The 2010 award recipients are:

Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940

By Amy Louise Wood

"Lynch mobs in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America often exacted horrifying public torture and mutilation on their victims. In Lynching and Spectacle, Amy Wood explains what it meant for white Americans to perform and witness these sadistic spectacles and what they derived from them. Lynching, Wood argues, overlapped with a wide range of cultural practices and performances, both traditional and modern, including public executions, religious rituals, photography, and cinema. The connections between lynching and these practices encouraged the horrific violence committed and gave it social acceptability."

"Wood expounds on the critical role lynching spectacles played in establishing and affirming white supremacy at the turn of the century, particularly in towns and cities experiencing great social instability and change. She also shows how the national dissemination of lynching images fueled the momentum of the antilynching movement and ultimately led to the decline of lynching. By examining lynching spectacles alongside both traditional and modern practices and within both local and national contexts, Wood reconfigures our understanding of lynching's relationship to modern life."

The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Desegregation of Ole Miss

By Charles S. Eagles

"After fighting a protracted legal battle, James Meredith broke the color barrier in 1962 as the first African American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. The riot that followed his arrival on campus seriously wounded scores of U.S. marshals and killed two civilians, more casualties than any other clash of the civil rights era. To restore order, the Kennedy administration dispatched thousands of soldiers to Oxford."

"In The Price of Defiance, Charles Eagles shows that the stunning eruption of violence resulted from the "closed society's" long defiance of the civil rights movement and federal law. Using many previously untapped sources, including FBI and U.S. marshal files, army and university records, and Meredith's personal papers, Eagles provides invaluable background for understanding the historic moment by demonstrating the university's--and Mississippi's--history of aggressive resistance to desegregation from the post-World War II years on, including the deliberate flouting of federal law. Ultimately, the price of such behavior--the price of defiance--was not only the murderous riot that rocked the nation and almost closed the university but also the nation's enduring scorn for Ole Miss and Mississippi. Eagles paints a remarkable portrait of Meredith himself by describing his unusual family background, his personal values, and his service in the U.S. Air Force, all of which prepared him for his experience at Ole Miss."

"Based on extraordinary research, Eagles vividly portrays the culture of segregation and the eventual desegregation of one of the last bastions of racial segregation, Ole Miss."

The Southern Regional Council (SRC) is an inter-racial organization founded in 1919 to combat racial injustice in the South. SRC initiated the Lillian Smith Book Awards shortly after Smith's death in 1966 to recognize authors whose writing extends the legacy of the outspoken writer, educator and social critic who challenged her fellow Southerners and all Americans on issues of social and racial justice. Since 2004 the awards have been presented by SRC in a partnership with the University of Georgia Libraries, whose Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library houses a historic collection of Lillian Smith's letters and manuscripts. The Georgia Center for the Book became a partner in 2007, when the awards ceremony first became part of the Decatur Book Festival.

The 2009 winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award were Ariela Gross for What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America, and Bob Zellner and Constance Curry for The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Remembering the Lillian Smith Book Awards Ceremony for 2008

As we look forward to this year's Lillian Smith Book Award Ceremony, scheduled for September 5, 2010, we also reflect on the moving presentations at the 2008 ceremony.

The first presentation was by Joseph Crespino, author of In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution.

In the 1960s, Mississippi was the heart of white southern resistance to the civil-rights movement. To many, it was a backward-looking society of racist authoritarianism and violence that was sorely out of step with modern liberal America. White Mississippians, however, had a different vision of themselves and their country, one so persuasive that by 1980 they had become important players in Ronald Reagan's newly ascendant Republican Party.
In this ambitious reassessment of racial politics in the deep South, Joseph Crespino reveals how Mississippi leaders strategically accommodated themselves to the demands of civil-rights activists and the federal government seeking to end Jim Crow, and in so doing contributed to a vibrant conservative countermovement. Crespino explains how white Mississippians linked their fight to preserve Jim Crow with other conservative causes--with evangelical Christians worried about liberalism infecting their churches, with cold warriors concerned about the Communist threat, and with parents worried about where and with whom their children were schooled. Crespino reveals important divisions among Mississippi whites, offering the most nuanced portrayal yet of how conservative southerners bridged the gap between the politics of Jim Crow and that of the modern Republican South.
This book lends new insight into how white Mississippians gave rise to a broad, popular reaction against modern liberalism that recast American politics in the closing decades of the twentieth century.
Professor Crespino's presentation was followed by a moving presentation by Wesley Hogan, author of Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC's Dream for a New America.
How did the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee break open the caste system in the American South between 1960 and 1965? In this innovative study, Wesley Hogan explores what SNCC accomplished and, more important, how it fostered significant social change in such a short time. She offers new insights into the internal dynamics of SNCC as well as the workings of the larger civil rights and Black Power movement of which it was a part.
As Hogan chronicles, the members of SNCC created some of the civil rights movement's boldest experiments in freedom, including the sit-ins of 1960, the rejuvenated Freedom Rides of 1961, and grassroots democracy projects in Georgia and Mississippi. She highlights several key players--including Charles Sherrod, Bob Moses, and Fannie Lou Hamer--as innovators of grassroots activism and democratic practice.
Breaking new ground, Hogan shows how SNCC laid the foundation for the emergence of the New Left and created new definitions of political leadership during the civil rights and Vietnam eras. She traces the ways other social movements--such as Black Power, women's liberation, and the antiwar movement--adapted practices developed within SNCC to apply to their particular causes. Many Minds, One Heart ultimately reframes the movement and asks us to look anew at where America stands on justice and equality today.
Join us for this year's ceremony.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Dekalb Public Library
2:30 p.m.