Standing on the Rough Side of the Mountain: Honoring Lillian E. Smith

How to Address the Persistence of Racial Inequality and Conflict in the 21st Century

Professor Imani Perry’s talk (below) is part of Piedmont College‘s 2015 Lillian E. Smith Symposium on Arts & Social Change which took place on Saturday, March 14, 2015

About Lillian Smith

Lillian Eugenia Smith was born in Jasper, Florida in 1897.  When her father’s Florida businesses failed in 1915, the Smith family came to Rabun County, Georgia, where her father had recently acquired property on Screamer Mountain and where he opened a summer camp for girls.  At first Lillian worked with her family to create the camp, but with her father’s blessing, she soon became the owner and director of Laurel Falls Camp for Girls.  This institution continued until 1949 and developed quite a reputation for being a progressive and well-rounded camp for young women, not only throughout the South, but across the country.

Lillian Smith emerged in the 1940s at the forefront of the Southern debate on segregation, where she was at least a decade ahead of other white liberals and stood virtually alone in calling for an immediate end to segregation laws and practices.  Meanwhile, she was developing her talents as a fiction-writer.  Her 1944 debut novel, Strange Fruit, was about a secret interracial love affair in a small Georgia town.  In 1949 she published Killers of the Dream, a brilliant psychological and autobiographical work warning against the evils of segregation.  Before her death in 1966, Smith would go on to publish several more books, fiction and nonfiction, and numerous articles and essays on social justice and racial equality, all of which were written from her home on Screamer Mountain.

Books by Lillian Smith:

Strange Fruit  1944
Killers of the Dream  1949
The Journey  1954
Now Is the Time  1955
One Hour  1959
Memory of a Large Christmas  1962
Our Faces, Our Words  1964
The Winner Names the Age: A Collection of Writings  1978
How Am I To Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith (edited by Margaret Rose Gladney)  1993

Teaching to Transgress Today: Theory and Practice In and Outside the Classroom

A lecture by Imani Perry (Professor, Center for African American Studies, and Faculty Associate, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University) followed by a dialogue with bell hooks, Karlyn Crowley (Director of the Cassandra Voss Center & Professor of English, St. Norbert College), Zillah Eisenstein (Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence & Professor of Political Theory and Anti-Racist Feminisms, Ithaca College), and Shannon Winnubst (Associate Professor, Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ohio State University) in a continuing discussion. Presented by Eugene Lang College (http://www.newschool.edu/lang).

bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins) is among the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Her writings cover a broad range of topics including gender, race, teaching, and contemporary culture. This fall marks the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Teaching to Transgress: Education as a Practice of Freedom, Dr. hooks’ seminal book on educational practices. This week-long residency is an opportunity for The New School community to directly engage with Dr. hooks and her commitment to education and learning as a place “where paradise can be created.”