Sunday, September 26, 2010

Charles Eagles Accepts Lillian Smith Book Award for 2010

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

From the time that the Southern Regional Council initiated the Lillian Smith Book Awards in 1968 until this year, only two have won the award twice. The first was acclaimed author and poet Alice Walker in 1973 and 1984. The second was civil rights activist and writer Constance Curry in 1996 and again last year for her work on Bob Zellner’s memoir. This year Dr. Charles Eagles becomes the third.

Dr. Eagles is the William F. Winter Professor of History at the University of Mississiippi. He first won the Lillian Smith Book Award in 1993 for Outside Agitator; John Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. This year we lift up a new scholarly accomplishment, The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss.

Most with a basic familiarity with the events of the Civil Rights Movement know something of James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi and the violence that followed, but never before has the story been recounted with such detail and in a manner that is as thoroughly grounded in its historical context. In reviewing the book, Gary Lavergne wrote that, to the extent that an institution can be an actor in a drama, Charles Eagles’ character development of Ole Miss is first rate. Dr. Eagles provides the most insightful characterization that we have of the controversial and enigmatic James Meredith. His coverage of Ross Barnett is so even-handed and so credible as to have the effect of making Governor Barnett seem even less sympathetic than if he had used hyperbole in describing him. Dr. Eagles has written a remarkable and unflinching history of the institution for which he works.

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