Lillian Smith (author)

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Smith in 1944

Lillian Eugenia Smith (December 12, 1897 – September 28, 1966) was an American writer and social critic toward the Southern United States. Smith was known mainly for her best-selling and highly controversial 1944 book Strange Fruit.[1] Smith was a Southern liberal who would easily go against segregation and work on taking apart Jim Crow laws. This was during a time when such actions would almost always guarantee being cut off from society.

In 1944. Smith published her controversial and best-selling book Strange Fruit. The book dealt with a then-forbidden and very controversial theme: mixed race romances. The book was originally titled Jordan is So Chilly. Smith, however, changed the title for the novel to Strange Fruit. Not long after the novel was released, it was banned in Boston, Massachusetts and Detroit, Michigan under reasons of "lewdness" and profane language.[2] The novel was also banned from being mailed in the United States Postal Service. The ban against the novel, though, was lifted by the then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt when his wife Eleanor made a request toward him.[3]

Civil Rights activism[change | change source]

One of several ways Smith openly discussed the problems of segregation was while she was counseling campers. It was this period of creative control on the camp which allowed her to use it for talking about modern social issues. Those were the dangers of inequality and how to improve society in relation to women.[4]

Death[change | change source]

Smith dealt with breast cancer beginning in the early 1950s. She died from the disease at age 68. Her book, The Journey, refers to her battle.

Legacy of Lillian Smith[change | change source]

Smith's novel Strange Fruit remains her most famous work. The book was translated under fifteen different languages.

In 1999, Smith was given an award by the Georgia Women of Achievement.[5]

Beginning in 1968, the Lillian Smith Book Awards were given out annually. But in 2003, there was not enough money being given to the Southern Regional Council.[6] The awards are the Southern United States' best-known and oldest book award. They are presented in fiction and non-fiction categories.

Selected works[change | change source]

  • Strange Fruit (1944) ISBN 9781568494203, OCLC 184751847
  • Killers of the Dream, (1949) ISBN 9780393311600, OCLC 951462511
  • The Journey, New York: Norton,(1954) OCLC 745967889
  • Now Is the Time, New York: Viking Press (1955) ISBN 9781578066315. OCLC 53091211
  • One Hour, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press (1959), OCLC 962028726 – an attack on McCarthyism in the form of a novel
  • Memory of a Large Christmas, New York: Norton, (1962) ISBN 9780820318424. OCLC 53263972
  • Our Faces, Our Words, New York: W.W. Norton (1964), OCLC 558156250 – an ode to the non-violent resistance of the civil rights movement

Collections[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Lillian Smith". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  2. "Hub Head Cop Blackens City in Book Ban". The Billboard Magazine. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  3. "Racing and (E) Racing Language". The Syracuse University Press. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  4. "Smith, Lillian, Eugenia". The Martin Luther King Jr Research and Education Institute. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  5. "Lillian Eugenia Smith". The Georgia Women of Achievement. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  6. "The Lillian Smith Book Awards for Works on Social Justice". USA Today. Retrieved July 18, 2021.