The Lillian Smith Award

In 2004, the Southern Regional council entered into a partnership with the University of Georgia Libraries, which now administers the awards. In 2007, the Georgia Center for the Book joined the partnership as a co-sponsor to help the awards reach a wider audience.

The Lillian Smith Award was established by the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Council shortly after the death of the Georgia author in 1966. The award is presented annually to authors whose books are outstanding creative achievements which demonstrate through literary merit and moral vision an honest representation of the South, its people, its problems, and its promises.

The winners of the 2009 Lillian Smith Award are Arelia J. Gross, author of What Blood Won´t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America , published by Harvard University Press; and Bob Zellnerwith Constance Curry, authors of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, published by New South Books. Gross accepted the fourth annual AJC Decatur Book Festival on Sunday, September 6, 2009. Click here for video.

Gross is the John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History at the University of Southern California. Her book examines the legal history of racial identity, showing how the relationships of race have affected claims of citizenship over the past 150 years. "This book reminds us that the imaginary connection between racial identity and fitness for citizenship remains potent today and continues to impede racial justice and equality."