Aaron Henry of Mississippi

ATHENS, Ga — A look at segregated public libraries in the Jim Crow South and a biography of a civil rights activist turned elected official are the winners of the 2016 Lillian Smith Books Awards.

Cheryl Knott, a professor in the School of Information, University of Arizona, will be recognized for Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow; and Minion KC Morrison, professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware, for Aaron Henry of Mississippi: Inside Agitator.

The award seeks to honor works focused on race, social justice, civil and human rights, issues championed by Smith in her lifetime. The ceremony, part of the Decatur Book Festival, is Sept. 4 at 2:30 p.m. at the Decatur Library.

“Every year we have to make tough choices among the 40-plus excellent entries.  The two winners this year join the lineup of so many distinguished winners that have been our honor to choose over the years,” said Mary Twining Baird, chair of the board of judges.

Knott’s articles have appeared in scholarly journals, including Library Quarterly, Libraries & Culture, and Library Trends, have focused on the history of public libraries and on information access broadly construed. She holds a doctorate in library and information science from the University of Texas at Austin and master’s degrees in history and in library science from the University of Arizona.

Morrison is a professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware, having served as professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University, where he was also senior Associate in African-American Studies. He has been on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Syracuse University, Hobart & William Smith Colleges and Tougaloo College, and has been involved variously in political science, freshman studies, Third World Studies and African and Afro-American Studies.

The Southern Regional Council established the Lillian Smith award shortly after Smith’s death in 1966. Internationally acclaimed as author of the controversial novel, Strange Fruit (1944), Lillian Smith was the most liberal and outspoken of white, mid-20th century Southern writers on issues of social and racial injustice. Smith’s family donated the collection of her letters and manuscripts to the University of Georgia ‘s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library and, in 2004, the UGA Libraries joined the SRC as a partner in administering the awards. The property where she lived and worked in Clayton now serves as an educational center and an artist retreat, the Lillian E. Smith Center of Piedmont College. In 2015, the college joined as a partner in presenting the awards. The Georgia Center for the Book is also an award sponsor, joining in 2007.