Lillian Smith: Breaking the Silence
Lillian Smith couldn't look away from the toxic social conditions that repressed the lives and imaginations of both whites and blacks. Segregation amounted to "spiritual lynching" she said. She used her fame in the 1940s and 1950s to write and speak about it. Her words are still timely today.
Inclusion StatementThrough her bold writings and actions, writer/activist Lillian Smith sought to awaken the South in the 1930s and '40s. Some say she was ahead of her time, but she said that she was totally OF her time. Her moral courage would inspire future Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr.
About The Project
When people hear about Lillian Smith or read her books, one of the first questions they ask is "Why don't I know about her?"
Why isn't she part of the southern literary canon: Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers or Eudora Welty?
Some people say she was ahead of her time. She mixed her genres in a modern way, from her bestselling fiction novel “Strange Fruit” (1944) to the semi-autobiographical “Killers of the Dream” (1949) to the philosophical travelogue/memoir "The Journey" (1954) and others. She let her imagination and conscience guide her work.
But Lillian Smith would say she was fully in her time.
She couldn't look away from the toxic social conditions that repressed the lives and imaginations of both blacks and whites. Segregation amounted to "spiritual lynching" she said.
She used her fame in the 1940s and 1950s to write and speak about it, becoming a champion for civil rights before the Movement took off in the late 1950s.
She became a voice of reason in the North. Here was a southern woman who remained in the South and wasn't afraid to speak her mind freely.
She wanted change and she wanted it now. She was unrelenting, uncompromising, and unforgiving towards white southerners who wanted to keep the status quo or move slowly. She was threatened and endured two acts of arson on her property in Clayton, Georgia. From 1953 until her death in 1966, she battled cancer at a time when it was a virtual death sentence.
She never gave up.
She had the support of her family and a lifelong relationship with her same-sex partner, Paula Snelling. She celebrated the changes in her lifetime: the 1954 Supreme Court decision ("every child's Magna Carta"), the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. (they became friends), the civil rights legislation of 1964.
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About This Team
Hal Jacobs started his own independent film company in 2014 after years of producing short videos for Emory University and others. His 2017 film, Mary Crovatt Hambidge: Wanderer, Whistler, Weaver, Utopian, was awarded the “Best Documentary” award at the Spring 2017 Southern Shorts Film Festival and was screened at the Atlanta History Center in September 2017. He has written or co-authored several works of nonfiction.
Henry Jacobs is a photographer, filmmaker and musician. He is also the Middle Chattahoochee Outreach Director for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. His photography has appeared publicly in several juried exhibitions and can be found in the permanent collection of the Lamar Dodd Art Center of LaGrange College. A licensed drone pilot, in 2016 he travelled to La Libertad, Guatemala, to produce documentary films for a project called "Love Crosses Borders.”