2010 Lillian Smith Book Awards announced

Athens, Ga. – The Southern Regional Council, the University of Georgia Libraries and DeKalb County Public Library/Georgia Center for the Book will present 2010 Lillian Smith Book Awards to Amy Louise Wood, author of Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, and Charles W. Eagles, who wrote The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss, on Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m. during the Decatur Book Festival.

The SRC established the awards shortly after Smith’s death in 1966. Internationally acclaimed as author of the controversial novel, Strange Fruit (1944), Smith was one of the most liberal and outspoken of mid-20th century Southern writers on issues of social and racial injustice. The Lillian Smith Book Awards honor those authors who, through their writing, carry on Smith’s legacy of elucidating the condition of racial and social inequity and proposing a vision of justice and human understanding.

After her death, her family donated the historic collection of her letters and manuscripts to the UGA Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The winners were chosen out of 43nominations and both authors have connections to the program: Eagles is a previous recipient of the Lillian Smith Book Award, and Wood served as an intern with the Southern Regional Council. Both books also were published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Wood, a history professor at Illinois State University, chronicles the lynching of more than 3,000 African Americans in the 50-year span she studied.

“Wood unearths photographs, early films and local reports and records to explore the critical role lynching spectacles played in establishing and affirming white supremacy in towns and cities experiencing great social instability and change at the turn of the century,” according to the UNC Press. “Wood also shows how the national dissemination of lynching images fueled the momentum of the anti-lynching movement and ultimately led to the decline of lynching.”

Her book also was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in 2010. In addition to this book, Wood has co-edited, with Susan Donaldson, a special issue of Mississippi Quarterly (Spring 2008) focused on lynching, representation, and memory, and is currently editing the volume on violence for the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press). In 1997, she worked as an intern for the Southern Regional Council.

Eagles draws from previously untapped sources, including FBI files and James Meredith’s personal papers, to chronicle the desegregation of Ole Miss in 1962. In describing Meredith’s family background and U.S. Air Force service, Eagles paints a portrait of a complicated man who endured constant hostility, even death threats, isolation and pressure in order to defiantly integrate a university which, along with most of the state, had aggressively resisted.

Eagles is at professor of history at the University of Mississippi, where he has taught since 1983.

In 1993, his Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama won the Lillian Smith Award for nonfiction. His other books include Jonathan Daniels and Race Relations: The Evolution of a Southern Liberal (1982), Democracy Delayed: Congressional Reapportionment and Urban-Rural Conflict in the 1920s (1990), and, as editor, The Civil Rights Movement in America (1986). His articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the Journal of Southern History, the Historian, the Journal of Mississippi History, and the New York Times.

For more information, see http://www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/lilliansmith/lsmith.html.