The LES Center celebrates the life of a fine writer and civil rights activist. Through its administration of the Center, Piedmont University is privileged to introduce to current and future generations the values and convictions that shaped the life and work of a great humanitarian and that are continuing to be instilled in the hearts and minds of its students. The Center provides an environment for learning through critical and creative dialogue, where all visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in discovery, analysis, and communication. All activities at the Center uphold the principles of diversity by encouraging empathy, innovative thought, and responsibility.
The LES Center supports the Piedmont University curriculum on multiple levels and across disciplines. Current and future activities for faculty and students include:
- Site visits for freshman orientation classes
- Field trips or multiple-day excursions associated with on-campus classes
- Independent studies
- Workshops in creative writing, nature writing, photography, drawing, painting, etc.
- Interaction with guest writers and scholars
- Outdoor laboratory for science and environmental studies
- Location for focus-group activities
Celebrating Lillian E. Smith
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Smith’s debut novel Strange Fruit, the 75th anniversary of Killers of the Dream, and the 70th anniversary of The Journey. The Lillian E. Smith Center is scheduling various events over the course of 2024 to commemorate these anniversaries.
“Celebrating Lillian E. Smith” is the first celebration this year of Smith’s legacy and work.
The community is invited to events on Mar.19 at 7:00 PM at the Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur and on Mar. 20 at 3:30 PM at the Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art at Piedmont University in Demorest.
“Lillian Smith’s work echoes through the decades and remains relevant today,” said Dr. Matthew Teutsch, Director of the Lillian E. Smith Center. “These celebrations will be an opportunity to introduce Smith to new audiences and to revisit her prescient observations about the human condition.”
Presenters include Rev. Dr. Benjamin Boswell, pastor at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, Dr. Keri Leigh Merritt, historian and author of an upcoming biography on Smith, and Dr. Jennifer Morrison, Assistant Professor of English at Xavier University in Louisiana.
On writing her 1949 memoir Killers of the Dream, Lillian Smith said, “I wrote it because I had to find out what life in a segregated culture had done to me, one person. I had to put down on paper these experiences so that I could see their meaning for me. I was in dialogue with myself as I wrote, as well as with my hometown and my childhood and history and the future, and the past. Writing is both horizontal and vertical exploration.”
For more information, contact Dr. Teutsch at email@example.com or at 706-778-3000 ext. 1233.
LES Center Virtual Book Club
For the past few years, we have hosted the LES Virtual Book Club to Smith's work and the works of others creators. We have read texts such as Lillian Smith's Killers of the Dream, Clint Smith's How the Word is Passed, David Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson's The Black Panther Party, and much more. With all of these works, we aim to open discussions and to highlights the important insights of Smith and others in our current moment.
For the Spring 2026 book club, we will meet via Zoom at 7:00 est on March 26th and April 23rd to discuss the readings. You will receive an email with the Zoom meeting information as the date approaches.
We look forward to meeting and discussing Smith's work with you.
- March 26–Gloria Naylor Mama Day
- April 23–Anne Moody Coming of Age in Mississippi
Traveling Workshop on Social Change
The Lillian E. Smith Center offers a workshop on social change that individuals and organizations may use in the form of a PowerPoint slide presentation. First presented for the Washington Gladden Society at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, this workshop is based on the Lillian E. Smith Symposium on Arts and Social Change, a biennial program that explores the impact of artistic expression on facing the challenges of inequality, injustice, racism, discrimination, and other social problems. The workshop uses videos, historic and modern photographs, and quotations from Lillian Smith's book, Our Faces Our Words, to encourage discussion about the vital role we all play in effecting social change. Access the workshop slide presentation.
Recreation and Public Access
The LES Center property is an ideal location for a whole host of recreational, social, and instructional activities for Piedmont University. The site can be used for weekend trips that include hiking, climbing, mountain biking, camping, team-building games, and more. Campus clubs and organizations can use the facilities for planning retreats, outdoor activities, or service projects. Administration, faculty, and staff can combine recreation and relaxation with meetings for special projects in a retreat-type atmosphere. Public access to the LES Center includes scheduled individual and group tours, book club meetings, retreats, and workshops. Rental fees apply for some activities. There is no admission fee for tours, but donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated. For more information, call us at 706-894-4204.
Southern Literary Trail
The LES Center is an inaugural member of the Southern Literary Trail, a consortium of literary landmarks devoted to twentieth-century fiction writers and playwrights from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. “Trailfest” is a series of public programs coordinated by the organization at over two dozen sites across the three states every other year, spanning a three-month period in the spring. The LES Center has been included each year since the festival began in 2007. For more information,visit the Southern Literary Trail website.
The LES Center also sponsors the Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award which includes a two-week residency at the Center, a $500 honorarium, and a $500 travel allowance. The Award is open to U.S. residents working to advance writing through public service careers or volunteer work. Eligible activities include, but are not limited to, arts education, literacy instruction, prison arts and education, English as a second language instruction, art-related therapies, etc. While the work of writing instructors and volunteers is vital to the community, the demands often limit personal writing time. This award provides an opportunity for those writers who, like Lillian E. Smith, recognize “the power of the arts to transform the lives of all human beings.”