Georgia Historical Society To Dedicate Historical Marker Recognizing Writer and Activist Lillian E. Smith

SAVANNAH, GA, April 14, 2022 – The Georgia Historical Society (GHS), in conjunction with the Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont University, will dedicate a new Georgia Civil Rights Trail historical marker recognizing Lillian Eugenia Smith.

Lillian E. Smith was a writer and outspoken supporter of the Civil Rights Movement who spoke out against segregation, racism, and white supremacy. She promoted open discussions regarding social issues faced by Black and White women, and she and her life partner provided a platform for other writers to provide honest assessments of life in the South through the literary journal, Pseudopodia. She is also the author of Strange Fruit (1944) and Killers of the Dream (1949).

“The Lillian E. Smith historical marker joins over 50 historical markers across the state highlighting the struggle for human and civil rights in Georgia,” says GHS Marker Manager Elyse Butler. “Lillian E. Smith was a prolific writer, discussing and publishing controversial views on women’s rights and civil rights during a period when White women did not discuss these topics in public.”

The dedication will take place on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. at 496 Hershey Lane, Clayton, GA 30525. Speakers will include Matthew Teutsch, Ph.D., Director of the Lillian E. Smith Center; Kurt Cannon, Mayor of Clayton, Georgia; Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton, Piedmont University Campus Minister; Keri Leigh Merritt, Ph.D., author and historian; and Elyse Butler, Georgia Historical Society Marker Manager. There will also be performances from the Haystack Choir and Catherine Gunn.

A reception will follow the dedication. The media and public are invited to attend, but registration is required. Attendees can register here:

The Georgia Historical Society’s Georgia Civil Rights Trail initiative focuses broadly on the economic, social, political, and cultural history of the Civil Rights Movement. Specifically, roadside historical markers tell the story of the Movement in Georgia by guiding audiences to the sites where history happened, inviting them to stand on the ground where struggles and events took place, and providing a foundation upon which to build and cultivate a deeper understanding of the past and its relevance to the present. The Georgia Civil Rights Trail highlights significant events from communities around the state to illustrate the overarching themes of education, leadership, massive resistance, white backlash, desegregation, and voting rights.

For more information about Lillian E. Smith historical marker dedication or the Georgia Historical Society marker program, please contact Keith Strigaro, Director of Communications, at 912.651.2125, ext. 153 or by email at

The marker reads as follows:

Lillian E. Smith

Lillian Eugenia Smith was born in 1897 in Jasper, Florida, moving with her family to Clayton, Georgia, in 1915. After attending Piedmont College and Peabody Conservatory, she taught in China before returning to Clayton to work at Laurel Falls Camp, her family’s camp for girls. As camp director, she led discussions about controversial societal issues, particularly on gender and race. Smith openly challenged Jim Crow and provided a critical White voice on Southern race relations through her writings, including the novel Strange Fruit and memoir Killers of the Dream, and a literary magazine co-edited with her life partner Paula Snelling. Through her involvement with Civil Rights organizations, Smith became friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., who referenced Smith in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Smith died in 1966 and is buried at Laurel Falls Camp.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and
the Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont University


The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) administers Georgia’s historical marker program. For almost 25 years, GHS has erected nearly 300 new historical markers across the state on a wide variety of subjects. GHS also coordinates the maintenance for more than 2,200 markers installed by the State of Georgia prior to 1998. Online mapping tools allow users to design driving routes based on historical markers, and a mobile app helps visitors locate and learn about markers nearby. Visit for more ways to use Georgia’s historical markers and experience history where it happened.

Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history. GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation.
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