Over the past few posts, I have written about some of the episodes I’ve recorded for “Dope with Lime,” the Lillian E. Smith Center’s podcast series that I have been doing this past year. Today, I want to share with you three of the latest episodes from season two. These episodes include conversations with William Brantley, LES Scholars Madison Hatfield and Mike Adams, and an episode on Laurel Falls Camp. We talk about a wide range of topics from the FBI’s surveillance of Lillian Smith to the impact of the LES Scholars program on students to the impact of Laurel Falls Camp on the campers and future generations. The conversations I had with each of these guests has been enlightening and invigorating.
Note: the following is the short piece I wrote for the latest issue of “A View from the Mountain.”
“Dope with Lime” Description
“Dope with Lime” is a production of the Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont College. Through interviews with scholars, artist residents, readers, and more, “Dope with Lime” discusses Lillian E. Smith’s life, work, and continued legacy.
“Dope with Lime” was a column that Lillian E. Smith wrote in the pages of the literary journal that she co-edited with her partner Paula Snelling. Colloquially, the phrase referred to cutting the sweetness of Coca-Cola with lime juice. In her columns, Smith would us satire and bite to comment on Southern life and letters. The column was, for all intents and purposes, blog and podcast like, relaying Smith’s thoughts in a conversational and witty manner.
Episode 19: William Brantley
In this episode, I spoke with Dr. Will Brantley, Professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University. His book, Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir won the Eudora Welty award for interpretive work of scholarship in modern letters. In Feminine Sense, Dr. Brantley looks at the autobiographic works of Lillian Smith, Zora Neal Hurston, Eudora Welty, Ellen Glasgow, Lillian Hellman, and Katherine Ann Porter. As well, he has written on the FBI’s 134-page file that the government organization kept on Lillian Smith and her activities. We discussed Smith’s FBI file and its importance in our understanding of Smith’s life and work.
Until I read Brantley’s work, I didn’t know about the FBI’s surveillance of Smith, a surveillance which does not really come as a surprise considering their surveillance of individuals throughout the movement. I did know, partly, about the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) following Smith around 1943 as a result of the Winter 1942-43 issue of South Today, an issue which includes some of the most inflammatory essays against white supremacy in the journal’s existence. These essays include “Are We Buying a New World With Old Confederate Bills?” and “Addressed to Intelligent White Southerners: There Are Things to Do.” To help with printing and mailing, Smith’s assistant sent the publication to a company in Atlanta, a company that had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Thus, when they read the essays, they began to disseminate them and to stoke fires about Smith and Paula Snelling’s work. This led to the mayor of Atlanta speaking out and to the GBI following Smith.
The FBI’s file began around the time as well, specifically in the lead up to the publication of Strange Fruit. The FBI file, though, contains mostly clippings from racist newspapers, and seems to be full of stuff that has no relation to Smith. However, there are very interesting pieces within the file, and one that stood out, helping to fill in details about events in Smith’s life that I was not sure about, deals with a 1962 event in Atlanta to celebrate the rerelease of Killers of the Dream, a tea event hosted by Coretta Scott King.
Speaking with Brantley about the FBI’s surveillance of Smith was very interesting, especially when thinking about their surveillance of her in a larger context of the FBI’s surveillance of individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin. It highlights the ways that those in power saw Smith as a threat, specifically her ideas and outspokenness against racism, white supremacy, and segregation.
Episode 20: LES Scholars
In this episode, I spoke with two recent Lillian E. Smith Scholars, Madison Hatfield and Mike Adams. We discussed how they became LES scholars, the impact that Smith has had on their thinking, and what they took away from the program. The LES Scholars program draws upon Smith’s life, work, and legacy, as it “encourages students to fully explore the values and convictions that shaped the life and work of this great humanitarian.” Students explore issues of social justice ranging from the construction of race and to counter racism to mass incarceration and the effects of mass incarceration on individuals and communities. Students must complete a minor in Social Justice and write about events they attend, activities they partake in, and other things that will help them on their journey,.
One of the things that I thoroughly enjoy about the LES Scholars is getting to work closely with students, learning what drives them in their social justice journey. Most of the students do not have any indication of who Lillian Smith was or her work when they enter the university. When they discover her, they become invigorated, seeing someone they can connect with who chronicles her own journey towards a more equitable society. Students take the time, in the program, to reflect on themselves, doing the dirty work of digging deep within themselves to untangle the deep roots that reside within each of us.
When they discover Smith, they feel as if a lamp has been lit in front of them, guiding them on their own personal journeys. They connect with her through her introspection, where she scrapes the depths of her own psyche. As Madison said, “It was one of the most life changing experiences that I was able to do at Piedmont.” Madison, after entering the program in her senior year, started thinking about life after graduation, and that thought process, along with her advisor, other professors, and Lillian Smith’s work, led her to pursue law school, working in family law. We never know what will impact students, but as Madison and Mike show, Lillian Smith’s words and her life have a continued impact on the present.
Episode 21: Laurel Falls Camp
In this episode of “Dope with Lime,” I discuss Lillian Smith’s time as director of Laurel Falls Camp for Girls, the first first private camp for girls in Georgia. Her father started the camp in 1920, and Smith ran it from 1925 to 1948. This episode is a reading of “Laurel Falls Camp at 100,” an essay I wrote for the Lillian E. Smith Center’s newsletter and published on my blog.
One of the reasons I recorded a reading of this article is because I would love to hear about individuals who went to the camp. I want to learn more about the camp and its impact, or lack thereof, on the campers and future generations. Smith wanted the camp to have an impact beyond the girls who attended it. She wanted it to carry onward for generations, impacting others, and it did. Hopefully we will have former campers or their family on future episodes. If you or someone you know went to the camp, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at email@example.com
What are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on Twitter at @silaslapham.