by Robin Kemp

Clayton State University historian and author Dr. Jelani Favors has won the 2020 Lillian Smith Book Award for his book Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). A paperback version of the book is due out this August.

Favors’ book examines the role of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in raising up generations of students who have gone on to fight for human rights in the African-American community and beyond.

“I am excited to be a recipient of the 2020 Lillian Smith Book Award, ” Favors said in a press release. “Lillian Smith was a courageous and outspoken advocate for civil and human rights and to win an award that bears her name is extremely gratifying. I am also honored and beyond humbled to be in the company of past winners such as Alice Walker, Alex Haley, Marian Wright Edleman, the Honorable John Lewis, and so many other incredible scholars, activists, and writers.”

The Lillian Smith Book Award is named for the Georgia civil rights activist and author of the 1944 novel Strange Fruit. Presented by the Southern Regional Council and the University of Georgia Libraries, the award honors authors who have published an outstanding literary work that addresses the problems of the South in an effort to advance equality and social justice.

“I hope that those who read Shelter in a Time of Storm come away with a fuller understanding of how critical these institutions have been in the formation and implementation of American democracy,” Favors said. “Our national commitment to true democracy and civil and human rights was hollow at best and it took a social revolution to expose our country’s hypocrisy. The roots of that social movement were found within HBCUs and yet that story had never fully been told by other scholars and writers on how that movement materialized. So I wanted to fill in those missing pages and I would like to think that Shelter in a Time of Storm has hopefully done that.”

Shelter in a Time of Storm also was a finalist pick for the African American Intellectual History Society‘s 2020 Pauli Murray Book Prize.

Favors, who earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in history from The Ohio State University and his B.A. from North Carolina A & T, will be honored Sept. 6 during a virtual awards ceremony co-hosted by UGA Libraries, the Southern Regional Council, the Georgia Center for the Book at the DeKalb County Public Library and Piedmont College.

Watch the book trailer for Shelter in a Time of Storm:

YouTube video

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....