Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mary Twining Baird Returns as Jury Chair for the 2012 Lillian Smith Book Awards

The Southern Regional Council (SRC), founded in 1919 to combat racial injustice, established the Lillian Smith Book Awards in 1966 to recognize writing which extends the legacy of the outspoken writer who challenged 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. Since 2007 this partnership has also included Georgia Center for the Book, and the awards ceremony is now presented on the Sunday of the Labor Day Weekend as part of the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia. Excerpts from the 2008 and 2009 awards ceremonies may be viewed through the links on this page and through the Video Bar.

The 2012 awards ceremony will be held at the Decatur Branch of the Dekalb County Courthouse on Sunday, September 2nd.

The jury for this year's awards is again chaired by Mary A. Twining, emeritus professor of English and Folklore at Clark Atlanta University. Professor Twining previously served on the faculties of a variety of institutions including the University of Kentucky and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Professor Twining is noted for her study of the Sea Island Communities of Georgia and South Carolina, and their cultural ties to West African culture through language, cultural habits and spirituality. Her published work has included Sea Island Roots: African Presence in the Carolinas and Georgia, which she edited with Keith E. Baird (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press 1991); Names and Naming in the Sea Islands, a contribution to the Crucible of Carolina: Essays in the Development of Gulla Language and Culture, edited by Michael Montgomery and Louise Ferrell, University of Georgia Press, 1994; The New Nomads, Art, Life, and Lure of Migrant workers in New York State, published in The Journal of the New York Folklore Society 1987; and numerous contributions to the Journal of Black Studies.

She has also contributed music reviews to Southern Changes, the Journal of The Southern Regional Council.

Toby Graham: Lillian Smith Book Award Juror

P. Toby Graham
Director, Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Director, Digital Library
University of Georgia

The Southern Regional Council (SRC), founded in 1919 to combat racial injustice, established the Lillian Smith Book Awards in 1966 to recognize writing which extends the legacy of the outspoken writer who challenged 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. Since 2007 this partnership has also included Georgia Center for the Book, and the awards ceremony is now presented on the Sunday of the Labor Day Weekend as part of the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia. Excerpts from the 2008 AND 2009 awards ceremonies may be viewed through the links on this page and through the Video Bar. The 2011 awards ceremony will be held at the Decatur Branch of the Dekalb County Courthouse in Decatur, Georgia on Sunday, September 4th.

This year's jury will once again include Toby Graham, director of the University of Georgia's collaborative digitization program, which partners with libraries, archives, and other institutions to provide online access to key collections on Georgia history and life. Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) is an initiative of GALILEO, Georgia's virtual library. The DLG endeavors to provide a seamless digital library on the state's history and culture connecting users to 105 digital collections from 65 institutions and 100 agencies of government (approx. 500K objects).

Graham is Director of the Hargrett Library at the University of Georgia, which consists of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Georgiana Collection, University Archives, and Records Management.

Graham serves as co-director and principal investigator for the Civil Rights Digital Library (CRDL) initiative (in-process), providing Web-based access to historical news film and related primary sources on the Movement from institutions across the U.S. CRDL also includes an educator resources component designed to aid the use of CRDL in the learning process. CRDL is supported in part by an IMLS National Leadership Grant.

Toby leads digital production for Georgia HomePLACE, a partnership between the Georgia Public Library Service and GALILEO to enhance access to local and family history resources.

Graham oversees the Georgia Newspaper Project (GNP), which microfilms 200 current newspapers on an ongoing basis as well as historical content. The GNP generates approximately 2-3 million pages of microfilmed newsprint annually.

Formerly, Graham served as Head, Special Collections at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Graham earned his Ph.D. in library and information studies, M.L.S., and M.A. in history at the University of Alabama. He is recipient of the Alabama Author Award for Non-Fiction (2004), ALISE/Eugene Garfield Outstanding Dissertation Award (2000), and Phyllis Dain Library History Dissertation Award (1999). He is author of A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-196

Friday, May 27, 2011

Joseph Crespino and Wesley Hogan Receive Lillian Smith Book Awards for 2008

As we look forward to this year's Lillian Smith Book Award Ceremony, scheduled for September 4, 2011, we also reflect on the moving presentations at the 2008 Award Ceremony.

The first award was presented to 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.

The second award was presented to 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 4, 2011

DeKalb County Courthouse

Decatur, Georgia

Thursday, May 26, 2011

J. Morgan Kousser and Leroy Davis Receive Lillian Smith Book Awards for 1999

From Southern Changes, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 1999 pp. 8-13

On November 6, 1999, the Lillian Smith Book Award for nonfiction was given to J. Morgan Kousser for Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction, University of North Carolina Press; and Leroy Davis for A Clashing of the Soul: John Hope and the Dilemma of African American Leadership and Black Higher Education in the Early Twentieth Century, University of Georgia Press. Below are remarks from the winners and former SRC president Paul Gaston and Lillian Smith jury member Rose Gladney who introduced Kousser and Davis.


You know there are a lot of good citizens in the country and there are a lot of good scholars in the country. But there are very few scholars who are good citizens or citizens who are good scholars in the sense in which Morgan Kousser has been all through his career. In the sense that a scholar uses his or her knowledge, his or her expertise, as a citizen to make this a better society in which we live. Too many scholars avoid confronting the big issues of our day. Too many citizens avoid using their citizen skills to write as scholars. When you have that combination of the citizen-scholar-as exemplified by Morgan's mentor C. Vann Woodward--the result is a powerful book. That is what we are blessed with in Colorblind Injustice.

Let me tell you a little bit about the origins of this book. It stems essentially from the expert testimony that Morgan gave in a series of voting rights cases, from Texas to Tennessee, to Georgia, North Carolina, and his adopted state of California. It was about twenty years ago-in 1980-at a meeting of the Southern Historical Association that then-president of the Southern Regional Council, Julius Chambers, had the idea of corralling scholars to give expert testimony in court cases. Out of that meeting there emerged a fraternity of brilliant dedicated people who used their scholarship to help us have a more just society.

Morgan's arguments, his testimony, didn't always persuade people. Sandra Day O'Connor is still not a fan of his, but this testimony formed the basis for Colorblind Injustice. It is a book that every member of the SRC should read. Now it is not bedside reading. Some critics have said that it's not easily accessible, that it is too difficult. Well, it's not difficult at all. But it tells the truth on the assumption that the truth lies in the details. We cannot understand contemporary disfranchisement, contemporary political problems, unless we understand the historical context.

Colorblind Injustice is a book that is at the heart of the concerns of the Southern Regional Council today and it will be enormously important as we look to redistricting after the 2000 Census. We are deeply endebted to Morgan for writing it and to our jury for awarding him with one of the 1999 Lillian Smith book awards.

Paul Gaston, life fellow and former president of the Southern Regional Council, is emeritus professor of History at the University of Virginia.


To conceive the racial views that Lillian Smith did, at the time that she did, was advanced; to express them was radical; but to broadcast them throughout the nation was positively daring, even foolhardy. Probably only her genteel upbringing and demeanor, her gender (patronized and not taken altogether seriously then, but less threatening to men than it would be today), and her residence in the mountains of North Georgia, far from the center of segregationist hard-liners, saved her from a cross-burning that she might not only have seen, but that she might have felt much too warmly.

I cannot claim to have been as brave or to have risked as much as Lillian Smith did when she published Strange Fruit and Killers of the Dream. But I have, in Colorblind Injustice challenged the conventional wisdom in the press and much of articulate opinion, which holds, first, that racial discrimination against minorities is largely dead in this enlightened era, merely important now to irrelevant people like historians; second, that the "conservative" judges appointed by Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, are unbiased, non-partisan, and anti-activist, unlike those of the notorious Warren Court; and third, that, as conservative icons such as Ward Connerly and Justice Clarence Thomas have asserted, the only thing needed to provide equal opportunity for all is for governments to adopt what they call "colorblind" policies, repealing affirmative action and all other protections of minorities against governmental and non-governmental discrimination. If such policies result in almost entirely white and Asian-American elite universities, governmental bodies, and corporation offices, then, they tell us, that merely reflects the fair, natural order of things.

By attacking such popular dogmas, I have merely risked being ignored, failing to attain the celebrity of such racial neo-conservatives as Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, Dinesh D'Souza, or Shelby Steele. Until today's award, I have been. The Thernstroms' derivative and poorly argued America in Black and White was launched with a two-page spread in Time Magazine. In contrast, Colorblind Injustice has yet to be reviewed, as far as I know, in a single newspaper or popular journal, and it may never be. When I was finishing the book, my friend Tom Pettigrew, a leading social psychologist and fellow native white southerner, who spent a good deal of the 1960s and 70s testifying as an expert witness in school integration cases, warned me not to hope for too much attention. "The times are not right," he wrote me. "Greed is in style, not justice." Fortunately, justice has never gone out of style at the Southern Regional Council.

But I am more interested in this book in injustice than I am in justice itself, in tracing the history and structure of inequities and the struggles against them than in prescribing a normative utopia, in discrimination than in equality. It is, after all, a book about American race relations, and there's a lot more inequality and struggle to study than there is justice. In the most general terms, I argue that institutions and institutional rules, not customs, ideas, attitudes, culture, or private behavior, have primarily shaped race relations and racial change in America. More specifically, I concentrate on black and Latino political participation and the processes by which their political power has been increased or diminished, emphasizing to a greater degree than other historians the importance of small, incremental changes and relatively obscure people.

But at the center of my story lies the most powerful actors for good and bad, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. No amount of courage and hard work can withstand an authoritative decision of that court in the American system, and no amount of skullduggery and discrimination can finally survive unless the Supreme Court blesses or agrees to ignore it. Lillian Smith recognized that, calling for southern whites to put the Brown decision into force quickly and fully, and she properly realized the power of the Court to begin a startling transformation of the southern discriminatory structure and culture. It did so, too, in voting rights, beginning with the white primary case, Smith (no kin) v. Allwright, which the Supreme Court published the same year that Lillian Smith published Strange Fruit. After the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Goldwater landslide in 1964 made the Voting Rights Act (VRA) possible, the Supreme Court, working closely in line with stable congressional majorities, largely expanded the protections guaranteed by the VRA through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Thus, in 1991-92, for the first time in American history, favorable judicial decisions interpreting the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution enabled African-American and Latino politicians and interest groups that represented minority voters to enjoy a fair chance to frame election arrangements. Supported by both the Republican and Democratic parties and at least tolerated by a white public opinion anxious to appear fair toward minorities, the resulting reapportionments produced the largest increase in minority representation in Congress and southern state legislatures since the early 1870s. That upsurge, however, was too much for the right-wing Supreme Court majority.

In the longest chapter in the book, I examine the Supreme Court's decisions on so-called "racial gerrymandering," especially the 1993 decision in Shaw v. Reno and its principal successors, Miller v. Johnson and U.S. v. Hays in 1995, and Shaw v. Hunt and Bush v. Vera in 1996. I argue that they are radical departures from earlier decisions; that they are based on formalistic standards that ignore both common sense and readily available empirical evidence; that they are inconsistent with each other; that they impose a variety of racial double standards, a separate and unequal equal protection clause that makes it much easier for whites than for minorities to win cases about voting rights; that they ignore or misinterpret evidence from the particular instances of redistricting that they consider, evidence that undermines their conclusions on racial intent; and that, along with other contemporary Supreme Court rulings on redistricting, they also impose a partisan double standard that strongly favors the Republican party which appointed the five-person Shaw majority and which benefits most strongly from the ethnic antagonisms that Shaw exacerbates. These decisions are not "colorblind," as their defenders claim, but intensely color-conscious. They are designed to make blacks and Latinos the only interest groups that cannot be recognized in redistricting, thus, ironically, employing the Fourteenth Amendment to deny equality to those relatively powerless minorities that the Amendment was meant to protect. If the nation is to fulfill the egalitarian promises of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, I conclude, Shaw and its progeny must be reversed.

In one of the few scholarly reviews of Colorblind Injustice so far, my position has been linked with those of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney in Dred Scott and Justice Henry Billings Brown in Plessy v. Ferguson, on the grounds that all color-conscious policies are fundamentally the same, and that by recognizing that race always has played a role in redistricting, I am contending that it always should. This is a bit like saying that in Strange Fruit, Lillian Smith was attempting to mandate that all sex be interracial, not just to argue for an end to discrimination against people who happened to fall in love with others, of whatever race and perhaps, in some recent interpretations of her work, of whatever gender. If I have to be associated with a Supreme Court justice, I prefer Harlan Fiske Stone, whose famous footnote four in U.S. v. Carolene Products (1938) recognized the special responsibility of the Supreme Court to insure fair political processes and to protect those "discrete and insular minorities" who were relatively powerless against discrimination by adverse majorities even if the political process was fair.

As an interdisciplinary book, spanning history, political science, and law, Colorblind Injustice doesn't quite fit anywhere and gets criticized everywhere. Two of the fundamental postulates of the common law were that the law made sense and that the judges didn't matter--that law is "found," not "made"--and the residue of these postulates still clogs the minds of law professors today. Thus, when I presented a paper based on part of the book at the University of Southern California Law School, faculty members treated with icy disdain my suggestion that the best explanation of the inconsistent, illogical, and unprincipled opinions of the Supreme Court in Shaw and its successors was that a radical majority of the justices was partisan and racially unfair. It was as if I had done or said something so embarrassing that the really genteel thing to do was to ignore it. This strikes me as an insular and unproductive response. The only way to build knowledge is to confront and refute findings that you believe are wrong or otherwise not in accord with the evidence.

But that is not a popular methodological stance in history today, either. Thus, in a review of my book by a historian, my efforts to regularize the search for racial and other motives by offering explicit guidelines, as well as to test hypotheses about intent in particular instances, are treated as quaintly naive. According to the reviewer, judges will never respond to anything but their "political values and ideology," and because historians only "mirror their own times," attempts to arrive at better explanations through systematic analyses of theories and evidence are futile. Racial reform through the courts is hopeless, and only a new and continuing civil rights movement will accomplish anything lasting.

I reject these counsels of political and intellectual despair, and I think Lillian Smith would have, too. Though she was not a systematic thinker or researcher, and though she relied heavily on psychology and emotion in her books and essays, she did also appeal to reason, and the very act of trying to persuade indicates that she thought persuasion possible, even in times much bleaker than today's. It is just as wrong to think that better arguments and evidence never prevail as that they always do, to believe that interest always clouds vision as that it never does. Superior logic and evidence sometimes convince even a hostile judge, and if they do not, they may at least make her law clerks sweat more. Historians find plenty to dispute about within every generation, and explicit statements and tests of hypotheses, while not trendy today in the discipline of history, have long been the standard practice in science and social science. And while a new grassroots movement would no doubt be desirable, it is hard to see how it would move life-tenured judges, many of whom serve for a generation or more, or how it would affect such legislative decisions as where, precisely, the boundaries of election districts are to be placed. To wait for a new incarnation of Martin Luther King Jr. is paralyzing and to demand it is irresponsible to the task of intellectuals, which is to use what means they have to increase knowledge and understanding, and ultimately, to make a better world. Lillian Smith was dedicated to this task, and I am proud toaccept the award given in her name.


In introducing Professor Leroy Davis of Emory University, co-winner of the 1999 Lillian Smith Award, let me share with you something from and about A Clashing of the Soul, Professor Davis's biography of John Hope.

First, to quote from John Hope Franklin's preface: "Despite that fact that Ridgley Torrence published a biography of John Hope some fifty years ago, Hope remained . . . the least known major figure in the annals of African-American history between Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps that was because he is one of the least understood figures during that period."

A Clashing of the Soul shows how Hope fundamentally changed Atlanta and the course of higher education for black Americans, and how this product of an interracial union typified African-American race leaders after the Civil War. John Hope was relentless in his support of public education, of adequate housing, of health care, job opportunities, and recreational facilities for African Americans in Atlanta and the nation. As an advocate of full black equality, Hope also embraced civil rights organizations such as the W.E.B. DuBois-led Niagra Movement, the NAACP, and the southern-based Commission on Interracial Cooperation-predecessor to the Southern Regional Council. Renowned as an educator, Hope became the first black president of Morehouse College in 1906 and then, in 1929, was selected as president of Atlanta University, now Clark-Atlanta which, under his leadership, became the first college to provide exclusively graduate education for African-American students.

John Hope meant to the development of black college education in the United States what Booker T. Washington meant to the development of black vocational and industrial education. Until the 1920's, the general position in America was that African Americans had no need of a college education, given their proscribed role in the Jim Crow political economy. Northern philanthropic institutions such as the Slater and Rosenwald funds, and the Rockefeller-controlled General Education Board, advanced the goal of education for American blacks. They looked, according to Professor Davis, to John Hope as a person who would influence the curriculum in black colleges, help determine the kind of teachers who would be produced, and the kind of leadership to emerge.

Hope sets the stage for the wide acceptance of black college education in the United States. Equally important to A Clashing of the Soul, Professor Davis brings forward what Hope personified through his interactions inside the black community. Here was a multi-layered complex milieu where relationships and power played out along class, gender, and color lines. Davis asks us to look not only at the history of African-Americans' relations outside the racial group, but also, through Hope's life, at the black experience inside the black "community"-the intraracial dynamics.

The tension inherent in Davis' choice of the title, A Clashing of the Soul, comes out, I think, in a wonderful letter that John Hope wrote to W.E.B. DuBois. In 1924, Hope is weighing the cost of being the president of a black college in the South in era of racial segregation. "An institution of learning," he wrote, "is such a delicate organism. It is almost human. It is human. The slightest touch sometimes disturbs its healthy function. Courage, the necessity of enterprise and a certain amount of pugnacity along with a modicum of self-respect make me continue rather ceaselessly in the fight, but I am bound to tell you, my dear friend, that blowing one's brains out is a great sight easier than some of the things we have to do and stand."

It is a great insight that Professor Davis brings to this study of John Hope, that we see not only the costs of fighting for black education, but the great costs of fighting for where you are going to put your energies on a day-to-day basis. At the 1927 Negro Problems conference, another first black college president, Mordecai Johnson of Howard University described how difficult it was for African-American leaders, especially in the South, to remain an active part of the separate African-American world, while at the same time, working hard to make that world fade away.

For Johnson, observes Davis, black America operated as a separate nation within a nation, that included both domestic relations and foreign relations. Domestic relations consisted of policies designed to improve the lives of the black nation's citizens. Foreign relations had to do with policies designed to improve relations with whites. "It would be perfectly foolish if we spent ninety percent of our time in foreign relations." Johnson said, "While we battle for liberty and equality, we must develop these segregated institutions as if we expected them to last until the end of time." In words from which Professor Davis takes his title, Mordecai Johnson acknowledged that the two activities were inconsistent. "There will always be clashing in the soul, but both of them are absolutely necessary and must be carried on at the same time."

As the 1920's ended, John Hope, an African-American college president who was also a principled race leader, understood that the clashing in his own soul would continue. In awarding the Lillian Smith Award to this biography, we on the jury want to celebrate and recognize the importance of John Hope's work and his accomplishments in his life. We also want to recognize and applaud Professor Davis, for his reading of John Hope's life and for his interweaving of gender, race, and class relationships along and across racial lines.

Rose Gladney is Professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and editor of How Am I to Be Heard: Letters of Lillian Smith.


In many ways, A Clashing of the Soul owes much to the musings a of young man over thirty-five years ago, trying to come to grips with an inherited world he did not fully understand. It was a world of integration in the workplace, but blanketed with segregation every place else. His world in those days included high school, black domestics, and motorcycle jackets, shining shoes in white-owned barbershops, playing sports in public housing community centers, and secretly reading about Buffalo Bill in segregated libraries. However, it was also a world that included people like Lyman T. Johnson, Whitney Young, Jr; organizations like the NAACP, the Urban League, and Colored branches of the YMCA; concepts like racial pride and solidarity; and a host of black male and female leaders, struggling daily to create a future free of racial inequality. That world came crashing back to my consciousness as I dug deeper into the life of John Hope.

What led me to write A Clashing of the Soul, however, is not what I would want to highlight in these brief remarks. More important are the lessons learned from Hope's life about the historical development of the South, and of Atlanta. These lessons provide a backdrop and perspective for contemporary issues and concerns that progressive organizations--such as the Southern Regional Council--and policy makers are grappling with today. Hope's life sheds light on both interracial and intraracial relationships in the South,upon Black leadership in education, religion, character training, class and gender identity, and community formation and transformation in time and space. I do not apologize for looking at history to gain an understanding and perspective on the present. Nor am I apologetic for believing that historical understanding has a role to play in engendering social action and social change. Perhaps I take this approach because I began as an activist and only later became a professional scholar. In my view, the two go hand-in-hand. Scholarship without a social vision is like a trained physician uninterested in treating patients. John Hope illuminates an Atlanta, and the South, in a state of constant change--although at times so subtle that it was barely detectable.

African Americans in the South had no choice after Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 but to fight primarily for as close-to-equal facilities within the segregated system as possible. Not only did John Hope understand that, but while he remained in the South, W.E.B. DuBois understood that as well. Militant activity in the early part of the twentieth century involved African Americans asking city hall--once it became clear that the Carnegie Foundation was going to provide a public library for the white community--to put one in the black community as well. That was militant in that time and place.

It was also militant then and there to talk about equal recreational facilities, equal health facilities, and close-to-equal pay for black and white teachers in segregated schools. People get historical amnesia as time moves on. But we need to be very careful about how we use terms like conservative and militant. This is very important for understanding black leadership as well.

John Hope, like DuBois, started with a belief in the principle of full equality. But what his clashing of the soul included-and this was important for other African-American leaders as well-was the recognition of the need to serve the community where it existed at that point in time.

While African Americans wished for a South free of racial prejudice and discrimination, the reality of the Court's 1896 decision only allowed them to fight for equal facilities within that segregated setting. DuBois understood that very well. It's there in the letters he wrote to people like Ira Reid, E. Franklin Frazier, and a number of others who finally decided they could no longer remain in the South. They found that it was too difficult for them to maintain the kind of clashing of the soul that Hope had to maintain all of his life. What DuBois told the prominent black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier was that to stay in the South, you had to endure humiliation. If you can't handle humiliation, then you need to leave.

DuBois' advice made me realize how difficult it was for John Hope to remain in the South. But Hope had a vision of establishing and legitimizing the importance of black college education. John Hope loved Morehouse College. He loved Atlanta University. He foresaw the whole Atlanta University Center as constituting a major black university in the South. So, he made a conscious decision that, in order for him to pull that off, he had to remain here in spite of what he would have preferred to do.

Throughout his life, John Hope was very involved in insuring that African Americans would have access to educational institutions and to organizations like the YMCA and YWCA-the "colored branches." The choice was not between segregation and integration. The choice was between segregated facilities or no facilities at all. It was very difficult for people like Hope to deal with these kinds of issues. A Clashing of the Soul does gives us more of a window to the interactions among African Americans themselves.

When I was writing the book I fielded a lot of questions about why African Americans, long after the Brown decision, still gravitate towards certain community institutions. Are African Americans willing to give up their fraternities? Are they willing to give up their sororities? Are they willing to give up their churches? No, they are not. An emphasis on black-white relations alone does not explain why. These institutions were often formed in reaction to a discriminatory environment. Over time, these institutions became extremely important to African Americans, as they continue to be today.

You would have a major fight on your hands, and I often say this to many of my students, if you dared think about eliminating the Howard Universities, the Morehouse Colleges, the Spelman Colleges, and so on. It is just not going to happen. Or if you talked about doing away with the Alphas, the Deltas, the AKAs. In order to understand the historical relationships that have developed among African Americans, we must investigate and understand the interactions that went on in spite of the clashing within the souls of black men and women. We must consider the impact and realities of past discrimination in structuring solutions to continuing societal problems.

I would like to thank the SRC for this award and for bringing us here today to reflect on the life of Lillian Smith and others who seek a society free of racial, gender, and homophobic discrimination.

Michael Honey, Andrew Manis, Lawrence Powell and Anne Levy Receive Lillian Smith Book Awards for 2000

From Southern Changes, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2001 pp. 17-22

Each year the Southern Regional Council hosts the Annual Lillian Smith Book Awards in honor of the most liberal and outspoken of white mid-twentieth century Southern writers. In works such as Strange Fruit and Killers of the Dream, Lillian Smith wrote boldly on issues of social and racial justice, calling persistently for an end to segregation. The Awards honor those authors who, through their writing, carry on Smith's legacy of illuminating the condition of racial and social inequity and proposing a vision of justice and human understanding. The 2000 Smith Awards honored the work of three non-fiction writers: Michael Keith Honey for Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Andrew Manis for A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999); and Lawrence Powell for Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke's Louisiana (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). In addition to winning authors Manis and Powell, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Anne Levy were present and spoke. Following are excerpts from the Smith Awards speeches.

Black Workers Remember

Smith Awards juror Professor Mark Sanders, Chair of African-American St
udies at Emory University, introduced Michael Honey's book.

Black Workers Remember is an enormously important oral history of black workers and the on-going struggle for civil rights, for human rights, for recognition, and for dignity. Responding to the lingering silence over race in too much labor history and adding yet another crucial dimension to our understanding of the civil rights struggle, Black Workers Remember demands that we listen to the voices and stories of black laborers too often ignored or overlooked by our official accounts of progressive struggle. It is their stories of hardships, of resistance, of triumphs, and frustrating setbacks. It is their memory and courage to recall that shapes our understanding that, indeed, constitutes history. Michael Honey not only provides us with crucial information and compelling voices, he presents us with a cogent model for oral history. The understated grace and humility of his prose serve only to give context to these voices and stories. He then steps back and trusts those voices to do the work of which they are so capable.

Michael Honey

Michael Honey's remarks were read by Mark Sanders.

Lillian Smith left a legacy of courage to resist evil, to stand up boldly and risk ostracism and criticism for one's views. Anyone concerned about giving true content to words such as human rights, freedom, and justice in the South and in the world today would be honored to receive an award in her name, and those of us receiving it this year certainly are. The award is not so much in recognition of what we as writers have done, however. It is a tribute to the courage of others who came before us.

This award honors people like Clarence Coe. His ancestors were slaves but after emancipation they gained some land, and passed down the determination to never give in or give out. Mr. Coe saw the results of a lynching, and he watched white men kick black men in the pants just to keep them humiliated. He moved to the city to get away from Jim Crow in the countryside during the deep, dark depression of the 1930s. For the next forty years, he struggled day in and day out in Memphis factories for his rights as a human being. He took up collections for the NAACP, protested the Scottsboro rape frame-up of the 1930s, and supported student sit-ins of the 1960s. He met with other workers under the cover of darkness to organize unions, and had his stomach slashed wide open by union opponents. Once he got a union, he fought the discrimination which white workers and employers alike imposed upon blacks, keeping them confined to the hot, dirty, low-paying, least rewarding jobs. For advancing into skilled jobs formerly reserved for "whites only," he faced years of threatening phone calls and harassment. White workers nearly maimed him on the job several times, using every trick they could find to make him quit. But he didn't quit.

The black men and women who fill the pages of Black Workers Remember tell profound stories of stubborn resistance to the dehumanizing ways of Jim Crow. Like George Holloway, Irene Branch, Alzada Clark, Leroy Boyd, Matthew Davis, Ida Leachman, and Edward Lindsey, Clarence Coe fought both the civil rights and the labor struggles of his era. He marched to support sanitation workers in 1968, and prepared himself for war when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered. The war did not come, and meantime he helped elect the first black mayor in Memphis, and saw the desegregation of the city's public life. In retirement, however, he faced new tragedies, as he tried to take care of fellow unionists who lost their jobs when factories shut down during the reign of "free market" global capitalism from the 1980s to the present. The last time I saw him, shortly before he died, Mr. Coe told me that "all I wanted to do was live in a free country." He remembered how "America the Beautiful" thrilled him as a child, until he discovered with bitter disappointment that the song "just wasn't about me then, it just wasn't about me." He said his lifetime of struggle for an equal place in America left "scars" on his memory. But he never gave up on the dream of equality and the hope for justice. By the time he left the factory, he had helped to desegregate its every nook and cranny.

The stories of these workers are every bit as much the story of the Civil Rights Movement as is the story of Dr. King. Labor rights and civil rights, Alzada Clark said, "go hand-in-hand." As a black woman organizing other black women in low-wage industries in Mississippi during the 1960s, she faced the Klan, the police, and racist employers. Just like freedom movement organizers, she fought against the forces of "law and order" for a more democratic and just society. Ms. Clark and Mr. Coe, like virtually every character who tells their story in Black Workers Remember, could recall someone in their family before them who taught them to resist the indignities of racism and to fight back. They understood that they came from a long line of people fighting for freedom, one that goes all the way back to slavery. It is the memory of these and other people such as Fred Shuttlesworth and Anne Levy, and our knowledge of what they did to make this a better world for us all, that are honored by the Lillian Smith Book Award.

A Fire You Can't Put Out

Smith Awards juror Pegram Harrison presented the award to Andrew Manis.

Some of you may have noticed that memory is not our most reliable quality. The events of the 60s and 70s begin to fade and merge. And while we shall never forget the horror and heroism of those times, the chronologies become confused and the facts fall out of the network of our memories. But, we are blessed that in our midst are a few, a very few, remarkable men and women who have the training, imagination, moral view, persistence, and talent required to preserve the history of these turbulent times. One of these true scholars is Andrew Manis, the author of A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Mr. Manis was born in 1954, the year of the Brown v. the Board of Education decision. He grew up in Birmingham and remembers, as he says, dimly, some of the events that occurred during the 50s and 60s. He remembers the epic struggles, the violence, the hatred, the turmoil, and the coverage that focused the eyes of the world on Birmingham and arguably brought about the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

In A Fire You Can't Put Out, Dr. Manis chronicles the civil rights life of one of the Movement's greatest heroes--the most significant one in the stronghold of Southern segregation--the Reverend Shuttlesworth. Dr. Manis's biography is marvelous. It is profoundly researched; it is crisply written; it contains elegant prose; it is passionate writing. It is just a splendid book.

Andrew Manis

Thank you so much for this wonderful honor and this beautiful occasion to share with all of you and to rejoice in a great deal of hard work--work that was a great joy to do along the way. It took me twelve years to write this book and many times Rev. Shuttlesworth was unsure whether I would ever really be able to finish. But I am delighted at being honored with an award that bears the name of Lillian Smith.

Why would anyone spend twelve years, writing about a relatively unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement, someone about whom only a small circle beyond the participants in the Movement and a few historians had ever heard? There are professional reasons why professors must write things in order to keep their profession. But there are also some personal ones. And, it is the personal ones that generally energize you and give you the stamina to complete the sort of massive task that this book turned out to be. The personal ones connect with what has been called the white Southern racial conversion narrative--a literary genre with which many Southern writers, including of course Lillian Smith, have been involved. When Lillian Smith later spoke of writing her book Killers of the Dream, she said that writing that book was an act of penance and a step toward redemption. Like other prophets to the South, Smith assumed that somewhere embedded in the white Southern psyche was a conscience that could somehow be shamed into seeing the light. Much of the Civil Rights Movement, at least the segment led by Dr. King and Rev. Shuttlesworth, was predicated on the strategy of appealing to the conscience of, not just our region, but also our entire nation. At times, Dr. King and Rev. Shuttlesworth I'm sure would have agreed with Thurgood Marshall who once commented, "You know, sometimes I just get awfully tired of trying to save the white man's soul."

In a real sense you can see signs of a racial conversion narrative in the preface of A Fire You Can't Put Out. I wrote about Birmingham's--my hometown's--central civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth because, as a white boy who grew up in Birmingham, I remember the times depicted in the book. I remember feeling that something out of the ordinary had happened one spring in 1963 when my mother called me in from a southside Birmingham playground with the grim warning that the "mavros" were causing trouble again. "Mavros" is Greek for blacks, but when it is pronounced with just the right inflection, it has the same effect as the "n" word. I also remember the morning I came out of Sunday School at the Greek Orthodox Church on 19th Street and learned that four little girls, just a couple of years my senior, had been killed at another church, not very far away in the city. I remember the ambivalence in my nine-year old heart, the fear that eventually I might have to go to school with the "mavros." That fear was balanced by the suspicion that the voices of Shuttlesworth and King were right, that those black girls and boys deserved to be in school where I was and that Shuttlesworth and King were right and the adults around me were wrong.

In his own racial conversion narrative, Reynolds Price, a former Lillian Smith Award Winner, acknowledges seeing newsreel footage that we all have seen of black and white together in the Civil Rights Movement and Reynolds Price confesses that, "I'm sorry that my face is missing. All these years later," he continues, "my silence offends me."

I was nine when that famous footage of the dogs and firehoses and Bull Connor's tanks were filmed in my hometown. Although there were some nine-year old Birminghamians with skin darker than mine who participated in the Movement, the Movement bypassed me. In a sense then, this book is partly a product of a racial conversion and a desire to put myself on the right side of history, to participate in a Movement that I missed.

But more importantly, I wrote about Fred Shuttlesworth because he became for many others and, especially for me in the writing of this book, an icon whose memory and story could transport me back to what historians of religion call "a sacred time of origins." "Sacred" because it was a time that shaped who I am as a white Birminghamian--and even more "sacred" because it reshaped all of America. To be associated with the name of Lillian Smith and with the others who have accepted this award before me is probably the greatest honor of my life.

To Fred Shuttlesworth, who was the President of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and certainly the most unsung hero of the entire Civil Rights Movement, who is currently the pastor of the Greater New Life Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. To Rev. Shuttlesworth, for allowing me to be a part of his life and to have the honor of telling that story.

Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth:

I heard of the Southern Regional Council years back, when there were no voices of clarity being heard about whether or not blacks did have some rights that whites should respect. There was always a word that I could read from the Southern Regional Council and I always thank God for them, because they said segregation was wrong. Most white people that I knew that said anything about segregation tried to make it right. So, I want to congratulate you for just down-to-earth saying the truth.

I came up under the dark days of segregation, the Klan, and the collective efforts of state and local officials to stop and block integration at any cost. But I must say that this is God's world and he moves, sometimes, in his own way. Every once in a while there is someone who by faith can feel as if God is with them and that God really owns them and they want to see God overcome some of the evil in this world. He moves in the hearts of people. And I've often said that when God has a contract for work to be done it has to be the men and women who have faith. We need more people who can hear the voice of God, and who can understand that God, if he is for anything at all, he is for justice first.

So allow me to congratulate Dr. Manis on his sacred award. I think he did a good job of trying to interpret a life that is dedicated and I believe God wants more people to be dedicated. Dr. King said that if a person hasn't found something that he is willing to die for, he really hasn't begun to live.

At first when I read the book, I wanted to take offense at it. I don't take offense at things often. I take offense at segregation and he was writing about my fighting it, so I certainly didn't want to take offense at him. But he did mention the word confrontation a lot. As I looked at it and listened to what he was saying, I said, "My goodness. That is right. You ought to get mad about injustice." Mine is a life of confrontation. And yours should be too. Light confronts darkness. Good is supposed to confront evil. Right is supposed to confront wrong.

I wasn't worried about dying. It shocks some people when I say that, because they don't believe that a purpose can be something that a person could give his life for. And yet that is the greatest thing; that is what salvation is based on. I was as determined to kill segregation as I have ever been anything in my life.

My friend and compatriot, Hosea Williams--he was courageous to the point of a spiritual and obsessive insanity for justice. I said to him one time, "Hosea you've been in two armies. You've been in the army of killing, of destruction--whether for freedom or not and you were trained to kill. Now you are in another army dealing on another type of battlefield." I asked, "Which one would you agree to being the best?" He thought that the battlefield of men's hearts, minds, and souls was the main one. And that was where he lived.

So, I close with this incident. See, the worst problem I ever had was not in Birmingham. It was in St. Augustine, Florida, when those Klansmen had even the policemen almost running. So we decided that if we were going to win, we couldn't let those segregationists go to bed every night and sleep well, that the business of getting freedom ought to be both night and day, so we decided to have night marches. As we could, the leaders would go down and get the people marching.

Hosea and I led the first night's demonstration and we had policemen with guns and mace and one of them even had a riot gun on his shoulder. In Florida, in the section where we were marching, there was a grove that came up on each side of the street and then we would be right out into the wide-open street, about eight lanes. The policemen were so nervous--they even admitted it to Hosea and me. Any Klansmen could be out there with a gun. So I said to the policemen, "You shouldn't be worried, you've got guns to match their guns, haven't you?" I said, "We've got something stronger than guns." He didn't understand that. Hosea and I were at the front. When we got just about up to the grove--the police believed that the Klansmen were really out there, I guess--so they kind of slunk back. Hosea and I joined hands and we walked out. When we got right back to the edge of the street, Hosea threw his head back and yelled, "God will take care of you," and everybody started singing. And, do you know, that made the policemen happy? You can be happy too, you know. If you do God's will and work, God will take care of you.

I could go on but let me just thank God for this organization, for what you have done, for what you will do, and what you mean to those behind us.

Troubled Memory

Tougaloo College English professor and Smith Awards juror Jerry Ward introduced award winner Lawrence Powell.

Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke's Louisiana bids us to weigh the meaning of dramatic clashes involving our deepest human passions in the 20th Century--passions that assume new guises in the 21st Century in which we have a foot. The intriguing stories in this book cut to the chase regarding race and human rights, both in Poland and Europe during the Nazi years and in Louisiana and the United States during the aftermath of civil rights struggle. As do all books that merit the Lillian Smith Award, Troubled Memory gives us an antidote for the historical amnesia that is widespread in contemporary America. It grounds us again in the necessity for at least trying to obtain universal human understanding. As Powell explores the Jewish problem in the Nazi period and the mutual suspicion and recrimination that haunts the memories of survivors of that period, he makes a most clever connection between European anti-Semitism and the especially complicated manifestations of racism and anti-Semitism in the political thinking of David Duke and others in Louisiana. Dwelling on the troubled memory of Anne Levy and the power of memory to provoke courage, Powell inspires us to think deeply as do the works of Lillian Smith. His book compels us to think very seriously of the historical and moral issues that endlessly function in the body of American politics.

Powell's closing words in Troubled Memory remind us that indeed there is no hiding place for any of us from the problems of the racial lines in human society and that moral action is less a matter of desire than of necessity in our time. He reminds us that Anne Levy's burden of preserving memory against those who would obscenely erase the past was not one that she carried alone. As Powell wrote, it is a collective responsibility, a civic duty. Erecting monuments and museums is one way to prevent forgetfulness, but in the final analysis, only a morally concerned citizenry has the full power to transmit the lessons of the past to a present increasingly anxious to get on with the future. For one brief shining moment, in a state not generally known for political ethics, a moral movement of people from across the spectrum said the past could not be brushed aside so easily.

So, on behalf of the jurors for the Lillian Smith Awards and the Southern Regional Council, we salute Lawrence Powell for giving those of us who embrace a sense of moral action, a decidedly elegant articulation in Troubled Memory of why we must never forget, of why we must--to borrow from Toni Morrison--"re-memory" stories and transmit them as grounds for moral action in unknowable futures. Such is truly the function of history and memory.

Lawrence Powell

I must confess, this is not the book I started out to write. The book I started out to write was about the "stop David Duke movement." Because I was very anxious in that struggle, a literary agent asked me to write about my experiences and to share my insights with the reader. Anne Levy, who is a child survivor of the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos and who had confronted David Duke right after he was elected to the state legislature, was supposed to be just one chapter in the book.

Her confrontation with him--one of those confrontations between light and darkness and good and evil--came from the deepest wellsprings of historical memory and was very seering and traumatic. It happened very dramatically at a Simon Wiesenthal exhibit of the Holocaust in the Rotunda in the great Memorial Hall of the skyscraper state capitol that Huey Long built. She had gone up there with a busload of New Americans, as the tightly knit community of Holocaust survivors in New Orleans call themselves. She was just there to bear witness, to be there for the unveiling by the governor, until she looked out of the corner of her eye and saw leering at parade rest, David Duke. This is David Duke after he had undergone extensive plastic surgery with an Aryan makeover look at about six-foot-three with a body by Nautilus. Seeing him, something came over her. She got angry and, as happens when political commitments are forged, she found courage and approached him to ask why he was there since he had denied that the Holocaust ever happened and, in effect, had defamed her experience. She was off and running. I try to tell about that and I also try to explain why she did what she did. I thought it was a simple question.

I am not by training a European historian, nor a holocaust historian; I'm not Jewish. But life sometimes throws you strange curves and before I knew it, one chapter became two, became three and Anne Levy ended up taking over the entire book and turning it into a Jewish family saga set against the backdrop of a world historical tragedy.

But I have to also say, I was profoundly moved and pulled into this story. If this is where the muse of history wanted to lead me, I said, well that's where I am going to go. The result is this book. The other result is this honor of which I am deeply, deeply proud.

Anne Levy

I'll always want to acknowledge what Larry Powell has done for my family and myself. Having survived the Holocaust, we really--my children and my brother's and sister's children--never had a family, an extended family. By writing this book, Larry has given my family and my children their history. He has given me the opportunity to leave a legacy for my family and I thank him. This is such a great honor for Larry and he deserves it so much. Devoting eight years of his life to write this book. I am so grateful. He has become part of the family.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Brown v. Board of Education: A Dream in the Balance

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

This decision, outlawing segregation in public education, was the product of an ongoing quest for racial equality which had begun decades before. For many at the time, the decision seemed to promise that inequalities based on race would soon become a thing of the past.

Sixty years later, many things have changed, but the optimism inspired by the Brown decision has sometimes been difficult to sustain. The broad consensus for racial justice which once existed has faded in many quarters. Inequalities have persisted, and efforts to correct them have often been met with fierce resistance.

The Southern Regional Council believes that the business of achieving a just society in the American South remains unfinished. Our work to illuminate opportunities for change continues.

As part of the Council’s observance of the 50th Anniversary of this decision, Carol Mitchell Leon and the Clark Atlanta University Players presented a dramatization of the events leading up to the decision and its meaning.

This video features excerpts from this presentation.

Part 1

Part 2