Saturday, July 9, 2022

Fifty-Nine Books Nominated for 2022 Lillian Smith Book Awards

The Southern Regional Council (SRC) recently announced that fifty-nine books have been nominated for the Lillian Smith Book Awards for 2022 to be presented in a Zoom webinar on September 29, 2022. 

SRC was founded in 1919 to combat racial injustice in the South. SRC initiated the Lillian Smith Book Awards shortly after the death in 1966 of noted Southern author Lillian Smith 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. Piedmont College, which operates the Lillian Smith Center, became a partner in 2015. 

The award recipients for 2021 were From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century by William A. Darity, Jr. and On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African-American Voting Rights by Lawrence Goldstone. The 2022 nominated books are: 

TITLE; AUTHOR; PUBLISHER 

Aesthetics of Solidarity; Flores, Nichole; Georgetown University Press 

Audacious Agitation; Willis, Vincint; University of Georgia Press 

Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence; Hill, Anita; Viking 

Better Life for Their Children; Feiler, Andrew; University of Georgia Press 

Between Freedom and Equality; Torrey, Barbara Boyle and Clara Myrick Green; Georgetown University Press 

Bird Uncaged; Peterson, Marlon; Bold Type Books 

Black Fundamentalists: Conservative Christianity and Racial Identity in the Segregation Era; Bare, Daniel; New York University Press 

BUSES ARE A COMIN'; Person, Charles and Richard Rooker; St. Martin's Press 

Chasing Me to My Grave; Rembert, Winfred, as told to Erin I. Kelly; Bloomsbury Publishing 

Children of the Dust; Barton, Marlin; Regal House Publishing 

Children Under Fire; Cox, John Woodrow; HarperCollins (Ecco) 

Chronicling Stankonia; Bradley, Regina; University of North Carolina Press 

Citizenship Education Program and Black Women's Political Culture; Gillespie, Deanna; University Press of Florida 

Confession of Copeland Cane; Norris, Keenan; Unnamed Press 

Dear Miss Metropolitan: A Novel; Ferrell, Carolyn; Henry Holt & Co. 

End of Asylum; Ramji-Nogales, Jaya, Andrew Schoenholtz, Philip Schrag; Georgetown University Press 

Facing the Mountain; Brown, Daniel James; Viking Father James Page; Rivers, Larry Eugene; John Hopkins University Press 

Fear of a Black Universe; Alexander, Stephon; Basic Books 

Frank Porter Graham; Link, William A.; University of North Carolina Press 

Fugitive Pedagogy; Givens, Jarvis R.; Harvard University Press 

Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class, and Food in the American South; Fwoodzie, Joseph C. ; Princeton University Press 

Give My Love to the Savages; Stuck, Chris; Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 

Ground Breaking; Ellsworth, Scott; Dutton, Penguin Random House Gunfight; Busse, Ryan; PublicAffairs 

Heritage and Hate: Old South Rhetoric at Southern Universities; Monroe, Stephen; University of Alabama Press 

Hot Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story; Martin, Rachel Louise; Vanderbilt University Press 

Justice Deferred; Burton, Orville Vernon and Armand Derfner; Harvard University Press 

Justice Rising; Sullivan, Patricia; Harvard University Press 

Kin: A Memoir; Rodenberg, Shawna Kay; Bloomsbury Publishing 

Kindest Lie; Johnson, Nancy; William Morrow an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 

Last Days; Beyer, Tamiko; Alice James Books 

Ledger and the Chain; Rothman, Joshua; Basic Books 

Love and Other Poems; Dimitrov, Alex; Copper Canyon Press 

Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois; Jeffers, HonorĂ©e Fanonne; Harper 

Make Good the Promises; Conwill, Kinshasha Holman and Paul Gardullo; Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 

Making Monsters; Smith, David Livingstone; Harvard University Press 

Monumental Harm: Reckoning with Jim Crow Era Confederate Monuments; Hartley, Roger; University of South Carolina Press 

Murder at the Mission; Harden, Blaine; Viking 

My Monticello: Fiction; Johnson, Jocelyn Nicole; Henry Holt & Co. 

My Remarkable Journey; Johnson, Katherine; Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 

No Common Ground; Cox, Karen; University of North Carolina Press 

Perfect Black; Wilkinson, Crystal; University Press of Kentucky 

Point of Reckoning; Segal, Theodore; Duke University Press 

Prophets; Jones, Robert; Putnam 

Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America's Death Row; Harris, Lynden; Duke University Press 

Rinehart Frames; Mphanza, Cheswayo; University of Nebraska Press 

ROBERT E LEE AND ME; Seidule, Ty; St. Martin's Press 

Rule of Law in the United States: An Unfinished Project of Black Liberation; Gowder, Paul; Bloomsbury Publishing 

Second; Anderson, Carol; Bloomsbury Publishing 

Seen/Unseen: Hidden Lives in a Community of Enslaved Georgians; Lawton, Christopher, Laura Nelson, Randy Reid; University of Georgia Press 

State Must Provide; Harris, Adam; HarperCollins (Ecco) 

To Love an Island; Brimmer, Ana Portnoy; YesYes Books 

Traveling Black; Bay, Mia; Harvard University Press 

Water I Won't Touch; Candrilli, Kayleb Rae; Copper Canyon Press 

Waterbaby; Wallschlaeger, Nikki; Copper Canyon Press 

We Are Each Other's Harvest; Baszile, Natalie 

West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire; Waite, Kevin; University of North Carolina Press 

White Liberal College President in the Jim Crow South; Godwin, Sandra; Mercer University Press

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Presenting the Jurors for the 2022 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. Since 2016, this partnership has included Piedmont College, which operates the Lillian Smith Center in Clayton, Georgia. Excerpts from recent awards ceremonies may be viewed through by clicking on the images on the right side of this page.

This year’s Lillian Smith jury is again chaired by Mary A. Twining, Emeritus Professor of English and Folklore at Clark Atlanta University.  Noted for her study of the Sea Island Communities of Georgia and South Carolina and their cultural ties to West African, her published work has included Sea Island Roots: African Presence in the Carolinas and Georgia, 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 Gullah 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.

Joining the jury again this year is Minion K. C. Morrison, Professor of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware. Having previously served as Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University, Morrison's research and publications have appeared in the fields of comparative and American politics and administration.  His publications include several books: African Americans and Political Participation (2003); Black Political Mobilization, Leadership and Power (1987); Housing and Urban Poor in Africa (1982), edited with Peter Gutkind; and Ethnicity and Political Integration (1982). He received a Lillian Smith Book Award in 2016 for his book Aaron Henry of Mississippi: Inside Agitator.

Melvin N. Johnson previously served as President and Professor of Economics at  Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee. He previously served as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Winston-Salem State University; Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, CIO, Interim Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Business Administration at  North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; Special Lecturer on Business and Economic Policy at the University of Maryland; and  Assistant Professor of Economics at the United States Air Force Academy.

James Taylor has managed the Atlanta Fulton Public Library’s Buckhead Branch and hosted the System’s Writers in Focus, “a meet-the-author” television show produced by Fulton County Television (FGTV) .  He previously managed the Library Express Department, the Circulation Department, and the Ivan Allen Reference Department.

Also rejoining the jury this year is Merryl Penson, Executive Director of Library Services for the Georgia Board of Regents.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Letter: Advocacy for Action Reacts to Judicial Appointment

"If ... talent, experience, temperament, merit, competence and abilities are necessary qualities for a judge, maybe someone can explain why Governor Kemp appointed a politician with little or no trial experience over a diverse candidate with extensive judicial experience to the Fulton County Superior Court? We cannot," the writers said.

Letter to Editors of Fulton County Daily Report:

On several occasions, Governor Kemp has negatively commented about crime in Atlanta:  On June 19, 2021, he tweeted: "According to the [M]ayor, rising crime in our capital city is everyone’s fault but hers. Getting Georgians back to work, back to school, and back to normal didn’t lead to more crime. The left’s anti-police, soft-on-crime agenda is to blame."  On June 21, 2021, Governor Kemp stated to the press that the Mayor of Atlanta was “passing the buck” and blaming COVID as to why crime had escalated in Atlanta in recent months.  And, on July 19 2021, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported that Governor Kemp plans to call a special legislative session to convene and focus on tackling crime in Atlanta.

Yet, on July 21, 2021, just two days after the AJC article, Governor Kemp appointed Chuck Eaton, a Public Service Commissioner and a White Male who has apparently never practiced law as a litigator, to the Fulton County Superior Court which is one of the busiest trial courts and a court that has one of the heaviest criminal caseloads in the State of Georgia.  According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, excluding domestic cases, almost half of all new court case filings in Fulton Superior Court are criminal cases involving felony charges as either a new case or revocation of a sentence on a previously adjudicated case.   According to the Fulton District Attorney, due to COVID-19  and a lack of resources, there exists a backlog of thousands of pending and unindicted criminal cases in Fulton County in the midst of a reported crime wave in the County.  How then can the Governor justify appointing an untutored neophyte to that Court under those circumstances over another lawyer, with extensive criminal and judicial experience of over twenty years.  How can that be explained? 

Judge Chris Ward, who was selected by the Judicial Nominating Commission as one of three (3) names forwarded to Governor Kemp for consideration for appointment to the vacancy on the Fulton County Superior Court, has served on the City of Atlanta Municipal Court since 2012.   For five (5) years, he served as an attorney for Georgia Power.  For four (4) years, he served as a Fulton County Juvenile Court Judge.  For several years, he served as a Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in charge of the Illegal Firearms Unit where he prosecuted major felony cases involving gangs, illegal firearms, and narcotics – just the type of crime that Governor Kemp is complaining has invaded the City of Atlanta. 

With that kind of resume, why was Judge Ward not appointed to the Fulton County Superior Court?  Is it possible, based upon Judge Ward’s stellar credentials, that Judge Ward was not appointed because he is a black male? The last black male appointed to Fulton County Superior Court was in 2002 when now retired Judge Marvin Arrington was appointed to the bench by Governor Roy Barnes.  Since 2002, in the last 19 years out of 10 such appointments to that court, before the appointment of Chuck Eaton, only one (1) African American, a female, had been appointed to the Fulton County Superior Court.  Of the twenty (20) judges currently sitting on that bench, eleven (11) are white and eight (8) are African American.  Yet of the eight (8) African Americans, seven (7) won their seats through an election, not through a gubernatorial appointment.  These irrefutable statistics are why, after years of doing so, Advocacy For Action has de-emphasized the strategy of seeking out African American attorneys to apply for appointment to the Fulton County Superior Court and instead focused on recruiting attorneys to run for a seat on that bench.

Our goal at Advocacy for Action is to achieve a fair and balanced judiciary in this State representative of all citizens of the State. Currently the judiciary in this State is not balanced as to the representation of minorities and people of color in judicial positions.  Take a look at the leadership of the judiciary in this photo of the 2021-2022 Georgia Judicial Council.


17 White Males; 9 White Females; 2 African American Females; 1 Asian Male; 0 African American Males; 0 Asian Females; 0 Hispanic males or females.  Only 13% of the State’s Superior Court judges are minorities in a state where the population, according to the latest census figures, indicate that the While alone population is 52% and persons of color comprise the remaining 48%.  Again, according to the Administrative Office of the Court’s 2020 Annual Report, only 18% of judges across all classes of courts are minorities. Governor Kemp has a powerful tool - the judicial appointment power - to correct this imbalance, if only he would choose to do so.  

Many applaud Governor Kemp for appointing several African Americans to courts outside of Fulton County and, most recently, to the Supreme Court.  Advocacy For Action also congratulates those individuals for their accomplishments, each of whom were highly qualified for the positions they were appointed to having had previous judicial experience or substantial courtroom trial experience, unlike Mr. Eaton.    If only we had more such appointments.

However, the decreasing amount of diversity on one of the most important courts in Georgia and where a concentration of the African American population in this state resides and are more likely to appear in a civil or criminal matter should give all members of the community, especially attorneys, cause for concern.  Sure, we can all agree that skin color alone does not ensure that one’s client receives justice or that skin color is, or should be, the only qualification for appointment .  In a perfect world justice is blind, including being blind to color.  We do not live in a perfect world.  It would be foolish to think that any judge, Black or White, discards his/her personal biases, prejudices, and personal predilections upon donning a black robe.  We do not live in that world.  The best we can hope for is that overall, the judiciary is balanced and made up of individuals whose life’s experiences are varied and diverse and the wealth of those experiences across the spectrum of such experiences infuses fairness in the delivery of just judicial decision making by eliminating or reducing prejudices and biases based on race, color and ethnicity.   To achieve that goal the judiciary must be made up of diverse individuals and not overwhelming of only one demographic – white males, as it is currently.  Most importantly, the person sitting on the bench who makes judgment calls should, at a minimum, have practiced law as a litigator before being tasked with ruling on motions, evidentiary issues in the heat of a trial or to make sentencing determinations on felony criminal matters. 

Thus, it is inexplicable, given their respective backgrounds and legal experience, why Governor Kemp chose PSC Commissioner Chuck Eaton over Municipal Court Judge Chris Ward.  According to information on the PSC website, Eaton, who holds statewide office as a Republican, earned his law degree in 2012.  He has served full-time on the PSC since 2006.  Prior to his service on the Commission, he worked in real estate in Atlanta. And, before that, he was an account executive for a packaging manufacturer.  How does that compare to the stellar credentials of Judge Ward?  Eaton has apparently never set foot in any court in this state or any other state as a licensed practicing attorney.  Even if he has presided over administrative hearings regarding utility matters, for which the rules of evidence generally do not apply, he has apparently NEVER practiced law in a court.  To all appearances, he has NEVER prosecuted a case, he has NEVER represented a client in a court of law, civil or criminal, and he has NEVER tried a case before a judge or a jury – all qualifications one would think informs a prudent Superior Court judicial appointment decision.  Any attorney should be concerned about appearing before Eaton as a judge on any matter. 

In 2016, Governor Nathan Deal reportedly stated in response to a question from the Daily Report -[i]s racial diversity more important than excellence and credentials and ability? It’s a factor, but is it the most important factor? I don’t think so.”  While Deal’s former Judicial Nominating Commission Chairperson Randy Evans urged Governor Kemp to select a diverse candidate to replace Justice Melton, he also stated that “Deal’s JNC and appointments did more to advance a judiciary that looked more like Georgia than any governor in Georgia’s history.” (Daily Report Commentary, May 4, 2021).  Yet, Deal, appointed just one (1) African American to the Fulton County Superior Court and his predecessor, Governor Perdue, appointed ZERO minorities to that court.  And, Kemp’s score of appointments to the Fulton County Superior Court? ZERO. 

We cannot discern how Kemp’s appointment of Eaton over Ward is based on merit.  Nor can it be masked by the simultaneous announcement of the appointment of four African Americans in a joint press release, in hopes that the smoke of the African American appointments will hide the glaring snub of a more qualified African American to the Fulton Superior Court judgeship position. Apparently, some other factors are at play in this decision, which once again denies a qualified African American male nominee the opportunity to serve as a Fulton County Superior Court Judge.  If, as Evans suggested, talent, experience, temperament, merit, competence and abilities are necessary qualities for a judge, maybe someone can explain why Governor Kemp appointed a politician with little or no trial experience over a diverse candidate with extensive judicial experience to the Fulton County Superior Court? We cannot. 

Suzy Ockleberry

Wayne Kendall

Charles S. Johnson

Advocacy For Action