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Marker for Lillian's grave. It was the chimney for the theatre/gym.CLAYTON: LILLIAN SMITH

Lillian SmithDuring these many years since I was a little girl struggling with conscience and custom, this old earth has seen more changes in men's ways than in thousands of years of its history. Lillian Smith in Killers of the Dream.

Lillian Smith chaperoned change to the door of the segregated South, but she and her message of racial equality were often shown the door. Smith grew up in a devout home where she was conflicted by her parents' contradictory adherence to both religion and racial segregation. A devastating incident of her childhood affected the writer for life. The Smiths brought a fair skinned orphan girl into their home and learned later that she was actually African-American. The girl was returned. Young Lillian could not comprehend her family's rationale; she could be raised by a black nurse, Aunt Chloe, but she could not have a black sister.

The Smith family moved from Jasper, Florida, to northern Georgia near Clayton in 1915, the year of Smith's graduation from high school. After college and the opportunity to teach music at a missionary school in China, Smith returned to Clayton where the plight of poor blacks and poor whites compelled her to write. Back in Clayton, Smith became the director of her father's mountain camp, the Laurel Falls Camp for Girls. Smith co-authored an editorial in a 1942 issue of South Today - a magazine she originated and published - that denounced segregation and declared that blacks should receive equal treatment in society and under the law.

  Grave marker of Lillian Smith Lillian Smith Lillian Smith House Museum  
 

Grave marker of Lillian Smith

Lillian Smith

Lillian Smith House Museum

 

Smith sparked national controversy when her first novel, Strange Fruit, was published in 1944. Telling the story of a bi-racial love affair in small town Georgia, the book was actually banned in Boston a month after its publication. The U.S. Postal Service refused to ship Strange Fruit until Eleanor Roosevelt intervened and convinced her husband to lift the mail ban. Smith defied taboos until her death in 1966 when the Atlanta Constitution declared her, one of the nation's most distinguished writers, a woman who loves the South and has worked for both Negroes and whites all her life.

  A cottage at the LES Center Lillian Smith's Library Clayton Cafe  
 

A cottage at the LES Center

Lillian Smith's Library

Clayton Cafe

 

Piedmont CollegeThe Lillian E. Smith Center is now owned and operated by Piedmont College (Demorest, GA). The Center is an educational facility for students, scholars, and the public and functions as a retreat for artists seeking the peace of the Blue Ridge Mountains for their work. Clayton and the surrounding area in the foothills of Appalachia are also a paradise for hikers, rafters, and photographers. The nearby Tallulah Gorge, containing the Tallulah River and five major waterfalls, is one of the oldest geological sites in North America. The political Bankhead family of Alabama adopted the name of the scenic river for a famous daughter who made a few waves of her own: Tallulah Bankhead.

  The Rock House, a WPA project Downtown Clayton Tallulah Gorge State Park near  
 

The Rock House, a WPA project

Downtown Clayton

Tallulah Gorge State Park

 

 

  Church constructed of rock Outside a Clayton art gallery House in Clayton, GA
 
 

Church constructed of rock

Outside a Clayton art gallery

House in Clayton, GA

 

 

  New Georgia Encyclopedia

For more information on Lillian Smith, link here to her listing in the New Georgia Encyclopedia supported by the Georgia Humanities Council.

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Lillian Smith


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