Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Southern Regional Council Announces the Lillian Smith Book Award Recipients for 2011

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-Third 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 County Courthouse on Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.

The 2011 award recipients are:

Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States

By Steve Lerner

"Across the United States, thousands of people, most of them in low-income or minority communities, live next to heavily polluting industrial sites. Many of them, like Ruth Reed, reach a point at which they say "Enough is enough." After living for years with poisoned air and water, contaminated soil, and pollution-related health problems, they start to take action—organizing, speaking up, documenting the effects of pollution on their neighborhoods. "

"In Sacrifice Zones, Steve Lerner tells the stories of twelve communities, from Brooklyn to Pensacola, that rose up to fight the industries and military bases causing disproportionately high levels of chemical pollution. He calls these low-income neighborhoods "sacrifice zones"—repurposing a Cold War term coined by U.S. government officials to designate areas contaminated with radioactive pollutants during the manufacture of nuclear weapons. And he argues that residents of a new generation of sacrifice zones, tainted with chemical pollutants, need additional regulatory protections.

"Studies show that poor and minority neighborhoods are more polluted than wealthier areas located farther away from heavy industry. Sacrifice Zones goes beyond these disheartening statistics and gives us the voices of the residents themselves. We hear from people like Margaret L. Williams, who organized her neighbors to demand relocation away from two Superfund hazardous waste sites;
Hilton Kelley, who came back to his hometown to find intensified emissions from the Exxon Mobil refinery next to the housing project in which he grew up; and Laura Ward, who found technicians drilling a hole in her backyard to test groundwater for pollution from the nearby Lockheed Martin weapons plant. Sacrifice Zones offers compelling portraits of accidental activists who have become grassroots leaders in the struggle for environmental justice and details the successful tactics they have used on the fence line with heavy industry."

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance - A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

By Danielle McGuire

"Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’s city buses, and whose supposedly solitary, spontaneous act sparked the 1955 bus boycott that gave birth to the civil rights movement."

"The truth of who Rosa Parks was and what really lay beneath the 1955 boycott is far different from anything previously written."

"In this groundbreaking and important book, Danielle McGuire writes about the rape in 1944 of a twenty-four-year-old mother and sharecropper, Recy Taylor, who strolled toward home after an evening of singing and praying at the Rock Hill Holiness Church in Abbeville, Alabama. Seven white men, armed with knives and shotguns, ordered the young woman into their green Chevrolet, raped her, and left her for dead. The president of the local NAACP branch office sent his best investigator and organizer to Abbeville. Her name was Rosa Parks. In taking on this case, Parks launched a movement that ultimately changed the world."

"The author gives us the never-before-told history of how the civil rights movement began; how it was in part started in protest against the ritualistic rape of black women by white men who used economic intimidation, sexual violence, and terror to derail the freedom movement; and how those forces persisted unpunished throughout the Jim Crow era when white men assaulted black women to enforce rules of racial and economic hierarchy. Black women’s protests against sexual assault and interracial rape fueled civil rights campaigns throughout the South that began during World War II and went through to the Black Power movement. The Montgomery bus boycott was the baptism, not the birth, of that struggle."

"At the Dark End of the Street describes the decades of degradation black women on the Montgomery city buses endured on their way to cook and clean for their white bosses. It reveals how Rosa Parks, by 1955 one of the most radical activists in Alabama, had had enough. “There had to be a stopping place,” she said, “and this seemed to be the place for me to stop being pushed around.” Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus, was arrested, and, with fierce activist Jo Ann Robinson, organized a one-day bus boycott."

"The protest, intended to last twenty-four hours, became a yearlong struggle for dignity and justice. It broke the back of the Montgomery city bus lines and bankrupted the company."

"We see how and why Rosa Parks, instead of becoming a leader of the movement she helped to start, was turned into a symbol of virtuous black womanhood, sainted and celebrated for her quiet dignity, prim demeanor, and middle-class propriety—her radicalism all but erased. And we see as well how thousands of black women whose courage and fortitude helped to transform America were reduced to the footnotes of history."

"A controversial, moving, and courageous book; narrative history at its best."

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 2010 winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award were Amy Louise Wood for Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 and Charles Eagles for The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Desegregation of Ole Miss.

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