Lillian Smith: Breaking the Silence


Lillian Smith was one of the first white southern authors to speak out publicly against the evils of segregation.

She was shamed, ridiculed and silenced for her beliefs.

She couldn't look away.

She never gave up.

I believe that voices like those of Miss Lillian E. Smith of Georgia...
represent the true and basic sentiments of Millions of Southerners, whose voices are yet unheard, whose course is yet unclear and whose courageous acts are yet unseen. 
                                                                       —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lillian Smith is a very great, and heroic, and very lonely figure. She has paid a tremendous price for trying to do what she thinks is right. And the price is terribly, terribly high. 
                                                                                   —James Baldwin

Her writings, her words inspired us all to do better.
                                                                                          —John Lewis

I believe so thoroughly in the philosophy and ideals of Lillian Smith that her productions always bring to me that broadening of vision and soundness of understanding that inspires.

                                                                      —Mary McLeod Bethune

I know well what the life and spirit of Lillian Smith represents—the transcendence of the artist over the unspeakable atrocities of her time. She was the word made fire.

                                                                                         —Pat Conroy

The South can hardly be said to recognize itself without this book [Lillian Smith's "Strange Fruit"].
                                                                                      —Alice Walker



This documentary will explore her literary achievements, courage and the life journey that led to her awakening.

Just as important, we'll show her relevance today as we face the same racial issues that Lillian Smith contested from the 1930s until her death in 1966.

By the time she published a bestselling novel in 1944, her moral compass was finely tuned to the changes needed in the southern U.S. Today her creative spirit lives on at the Lillian E. Smith Center, Piedmont College.




We have received seed funding from the Lillian E. Smith Center of Piedmont College and Georgia Humanities to launch this project.

In October 2017, the Southern Documentary Fund (SDF), a nonprofit arts organization and leading advocate for powerful southern storytelling, added the project to its roster of films that "aim to bring injustice to light, and to reveal truths, large and small, about the world around us."

If you would like to support this project with a tax-deductible donation, please visit the SDF webpage.

E-mail Filmmakers: Hal Jacobs | Henry Jacobs



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New Georgia Encyclopedia Article

Oxford American article about Lillian Smith by Diane Roberts (2016)

The Lillian E. Smith Center