When I worked at the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, one of the programs that I wanted to implement was an annual professional development opportunity for area educators, providing them a space to learn about Gaines’ work and the history and people that informed it, looking at how all of it shaped the community and region in which we lived and taught. When I started working at the Lillian E. Smith (LES) Center, I knew that I wanted to start a similar program here. COVID threw a wrench in those initial plans. However, this year we are planning the first annual professional development program at the LES Center. We hope that this will be the first of many.

One of my main goals when thinking about professional development programs is to provide educators with the space and time to dive deeply into material and to provide them with facilitators that will work with them to bring what they learn into their own classrooms. As well, I want to make sure that educators do not have to pay for their professional development. Instead, I want to pay them and provide them with the texts they will discuss during the program. The NEH provides stipends for its programs, and we need to do this for educators. We don’t need to expect them to pay for opportunities to increase their knowledge and pedagogical practices. We need to support them.

During my educational career, specifically my P-12 career, I did not learn about Lillian Smith. I didn’t learn about the Civil Rights Movement in my hometown of Shreveport, LA. I didn’t learn about Pauli Murray. I didn’t learn about Lonnie King. I didn’t learn about Joan Browning. I didn’t learn about L.J. Harrison. I didn’t learn . . .

This program provides a space for educators to explore the Civil Rights Movement where they live, in the mountains of Northeast Georgia, in a space where one might ask, “Did the movement ever reach up here?” It did. In cabins on Screamer Mountain, activists met. They talked. Eslanda Robeson, Mary Church Terrell, Dorothy Tillis, Lonnie King, and more made trips up the mountain to talk with Lillian Smith and Paula Snelling. They came to talk to one another, to open up dialogues. That is what I hope this program does as well, open up dialogues for educators to bring the knowledge they gather back to their classrooms, back to their students, back to their communities, expanding the dialogues that happened on the mountain across the decades.

Below, you will find information about the program.

Professional Development Opportunity: “The Civil Rights Movement in Northeast Georgia”

Would you like to receive $200 for attending a professional development program at the LES Center?

We are still accepting applications for the LES Center’s summer professional development program, “The Civil Rights Movement in Northeast Georgia.” Hosted by the LES Center and sponsored by Write to Change, he program is an opportunity to gather with fellow educators and talk about our pedagogical approaches in the classroom, sharing our knowledge, experience, and more.

Writing to a high school English teacher and his students, Lillian Smith told them, “I don’t know when learning stops. But I know a writer never stops learning, not ever — until she is dead as a creative being. When you stop leaning, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, them it is time to die.”

As educators, we never stop learning, discovering new things and pedagogies that we can use to plant that spark within our students’ minds. This professional development opportunity, hosted by the Lillian E. Smith Center and sponsored by Write to Change is an opportunity to gather with fellow educators and talk about our pedagogical approaches in the classroom, sharing our knowledge, experience, and more.

While the mornings and the readings for the program will focus on Lillian Smith and the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, the program will bring together the arts, history, literature, environmental science, and more, providing opportunities for interdisciplinary conversations that will benefit our students and our educational communities. In the afternoons, participants will take part in a variety of activities from lesson plan construction to discussions of environmental science at the camp and in the region. We will also visit the Bud Lee exhibit at Piedmont University’s Mason-Scharfenstein Art Museum. Lee was a photojournalist who chronicled the events in Detroit and Newark during the summer of 1967. We will also visit the African American Museum of Northeast Georgia and the Mary Hambidge Center.

Our goal with the program is to work with educators on bringing important discussions into the classroom and on helping their students see the history that exists around them, specifically in connection with the Civil Rights Movement.

Facilitators will include Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster (professor emerita Georgia Tech), Dr. Dwyanna Smith (Claflin University), Marie Cochran (Affrilachian Artist Project), Dr. Julia Schmitz (Piedmont University), and Dr. Rebecca Godwin (Piedmont University).

Program Details:

  • Deadline for applications, May 2, 2022;
  • Open to any P-12 educator in Georgia;
  • Takes place June 13–17, 2022;
  • Participants will receive professional development hours;
  • Participants will receive a $200 honorarium;
  • Participants will receive complimentary copies of the books and texts for the program;
  • Participants will receive complimentary housing in the LES Center’s bunkhouses;


Applications will consist of a CV and a brief statement of purpose (500–1,000 words) describing why you are interested in the program. Please email these to lescenter@piedmont.edu.

Participants will be notified of acceptance by May 15, 2022.

If you would like more information, visit https://lesp12.com or contact us at lescenter@piedmont.edu.

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