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.

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