Lillian E. Smith (1897-1966)

Year Erected: 2022

Marker Text: 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.

Tips for Finding This Marker: Located at 496 Hershey Lane in Clayton near the Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont University.