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Jasper Public Library - film screening - Lillian Smith: Breaking the Silence

Jasper Public Library 311 Hatley St. N.E. Jasper, FL 32052

CONTACT: Becky Adams, Branch Manager,, 386-792-2285

Lillian Smith: Breaking the Silence Documentary Screening

Film premiere date: August 30, 2019

New documentary on southern writer/activist Lillian Smith, who received national attention in the 1940s-50s as the first prominent southern author to speak out against segregation will be screened at the Jasper Public Library on October 10 at 6:00pm.

Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 6:00pm.  Lillian Smith. Her name and books are mostly forgotten now except by southern historians and activists. Yet from the 1940s through the early 1960s, the southern writer was a force to be reckoned with.

Her first novel, Strange Fruit (1944), was a national bestseller that dropped like a bomb on wartime America because of its bold look at social — and sexual — relations in a small southern town that strongly resembled her hometown of Jasper, Fla., where she was born in 1897.

Writing from her home in the north Georgia mountains, where she lived most of her life, she was deemed a traitor to the South for her stance on racial and gender equality. Segregation amounted to "spiritual lynching" to both whites and blacks, she wrote in numerous articles, and in her controversial semi-autographical book Killers of the Dream (published in 1949 and reprinted in 1961).

Before the Civil Rights Movement took off in the late 1950s, she was a voice of reason in the North. Here was a southern woman who remained in the South and wasn’t afraid to speak her conscience against the demagogues, Klan and mobs.

Smith was lauded by luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt and James Baldwin, and was an inspiration to leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. She was a trusted friend and correspondent of Martin Luther King, Jr., who, in his impassioned Letter from Birmingham Jail, included her as one of a small group of those who “have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms.” In fact, in 1960, when King was pulled over in DeKalb County for an alleged traffic violation, Smith was riding in his car. He was driving her to Emory Hospital for the treatment of cancer that plagued her for over 10 years and would eventually take her life in 1966.

Breaking the Silence explores how this child of the South became a formidable opponent of the southern way of life protected by segregationist politicians, church leaders and newspaper editors. The documentary tells the story of Smith in her own voice and seldom-seen interviews, and also through the voices of friends and family and those like Otis Moss Jr. and Lonnie King, both pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as leading academics such as George Yancy of Emory University, Diane Roberts of Florida State University, and Lillian Smith scholar Rose Gladney.

Breaking the Silence is a 50-minute documentary about the life and work of controversial Georgia writer and activist Lillian Smith (1887-1966). Created by Hal and Henry Jacobs, the film explores the life of Smith who was a southern leader in denouncing segregation and white supremacists for several decades—paying a heavy price for it. Smith left a lasting legacy in the literary and Civil Rights communities, a legacy that is still relevant, today. At this screening, attendees will view the final version of the documentary; revised after feedback received from the preview screenings held at Decatur Library in May, 2019. The documentary will be screened at the Jasper Public Library on Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 6:00pm.

About Support for the Film

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." The documentary has also received support from the Lillian E. Smith Center of Piedmont College, Georgia Humanities, the Watson-Brown Foundation, and the GSU Center for Neighborhood and Metropolitan Studies.

About the Filmmakers

Hal Jacobs - Producer/Director
Hal started his own film/video production company, HJacobsCreative, in 2014 after spending over 25 years as an editor in higher education and freelance writer. His work, often in collaboration with his son, Henry, celebrates the environment, history, creativity, and social justice—especially bringing to the forefront lost voices needing to be heard in new ways. He lives in Decatur, Georgia.

Henry Jacobs - Co-director
Henry is a photographer, filmmaker and musician. His photography, which includes aerial photography, has appeared publicly in several juried exhibitions. His music takes the form of blues, Americana and West African drumming. He lives in LaGrange, Georgia, where he is the Middle Chattahoochee outreach director for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

View the trailer for the film at:
Film homepage:
Facebook page:

Film premiere date: August 30, 2019
Run time: 52 minutes