Lillian Smith Book Award History
The Southern Regional Council established the Lillian Smith award shortly after Smith's death in 1966. Internationally acclaimed as author of the controversial novel, Strange Fruit (1944), Lillian Smith was the most liberal and outspoken of white, mid-twentieth century Southern writers on issues of social and racial injustice. When other Southern liberals were charting a cautious course on racial change, Smith boldly and persistently called for an end to segregation. For such boldness, she was often scorned by more moderate southerners, threatened by arsonists, and denied the critical attention she deserved as a writer. Yet she continued to write and speak for improved human relations and social justice throughout her life.
The Southern Regional Council has entered into a new partnership with the University of Georgia Libraries. Effective February 2004, the University of Georgia Libraries will be the administrator of the prestigious Lillian Smith Book Awards. This partnership will allow the awards to expand their reach to a wider audience and to more broadly fulfill the mission of enhancing racial awareness through literature.
The Southern Regional Council will continue to participate in the planning of these awards and in assuring continued adherence to the criteria: selecting books that are outstanding creative achievements, worthy of recognition because of their literary merit, moral vision, and honest representation of the South, its people, problems, and promises. By administering the awards, the UGA Libraries will make the call for submissions for the awards, host the awards ceremony, work with the Council to build the young writers workshops and open the awards to the students and literary community around the school.
After her death, the family of Lillian Smith donated the historic collection of Lillian Smith's letters and manuscripts to the University of Georgia 's Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Reaching students and tapping a new segment of the literary community, the Southern Regional Council anticipates that placing these awards in an academic setting will help to shape the future of this award that represents the ideals of a racially just society.