Books Taking on Historic Racial Injustice in Tulsa, Charleston Named as Winners of Lillian Smith Book Awards

Submitted by Camie on

Books about past and present racial injustices in the Southern cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charleston, South Carolina are the winners of the 2024 Lillian Smith Book Awards, a University of Georgia Libraries-based award recognizing the best writing on social justice topics in the United States.

This year’s awards recognize Susan Crawford’s Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm and Victor Luckerson’s Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street. The writers will be honored during a Thursday, Oct. 3 ceremony at the Dekalb Public Library’s Georgia Center for the Book, which is a partner in the award program, along with the Southern Regional Council and Piedmont University. For more information about the free event, visit the UGA Libraries website.

“In their books, Susan Crawford and Victor Luckerson illustrate not only past actions of racial injustice but also the generational impacts that continue to shape the communities of Charleston and Tulsa,” said Katherine Stein, interim associate university librarian for special collections and director of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which administers the award. “We look forward to recognizing these exceptional story tellers at the 2024 Lillian Smith Book Awards ceremony in October.”

book cover of Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm. Blue with cutout images of the coast and storm cloudsIn Charleston (Pegasus Books), Crawford, a law professor, author, and technology expert, weaves together science, historical narratives, and personal stories of Black Charlestonians in her case study at the intersection of climate change and racial injustice in the coastal South Carolina city. The book grapples with the historical and present-day abuses of power that have shaped Charleston and offers a vision for a more equitable and resilient future, emphasizing the need for immediate, inclusive planning and climate justice. 

black and white photo of a smiling woman with wavy hairCrawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School. She served as Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy in 2009 and co-led the FCC transition between the Bush and Obama administrations. Her accolades include being named one of Politico’s 50 Thinkers, Doers, and Visionaries Transforming Politics in 2015, one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology in 2009, and one of TIME Magazine’s Tech 40: The Most Influential Minds in Tech in 2013. 

book cover of "Built from the Fire" with historic photos of black citizens and vibrant orange backgroundIn Built from the Fire (Random House), Luckerson delves into the legacy of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which continues to impact the city’s Black community more than a century later. The book traces the history of the Greenwood community from a beacon of Black entrepreneurial success during the Jim Crow era through the violent massacre, which began with a false accusation against a Black teenager and led to the destruction of more than 1,200 homes and nearly every business in Greenwood, and into the present day. Prominent figures like Loula Williams, a successful businesswoman, and the Goodwin family, whose descendants continue to play a significant role in Greenwood, are central to Luckerson’s narrative. The book documents Greenwood’s history post-massacre, emphasizing the persistent challenges of white supremacy, class stratification, and governmental neglect.  

photo of Black man with glasses and yellow shirtLuckerson, a journalist from Montgomery, Alabama, is the University of Tulsa’s writer in residence for 2023-2024. In addition to sharing his research and insights with students on campus, Luckerson is collaborating with the College of Law’s Buck Colbert Franklin Legal Clinic to investigate lawsuits filed by Greenwood property owners in the aftermath of the massacre. He has written for esteemed publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, TIME Magazine, and Smithsonian magazine. 

The Lillian Smith Book Awards date back to 1968, when the Southern Regional Council established the book prize to honor the internationally acclaimed author of the controversial novel, Strange Fruit (1944). The awards have recognized a range of literary and academic works from leading academics such as Henry Louis Gates Jr., activists like John Lewis, novelists from Tayari Jones to Eudora Welty, and other writers, such as poet Natasha Trethewey. For more information about the Lillian Smith Book Awards, visit