Alfred Smith, activst behind the scenes

Date: 
Wed, 1903-12-02

Alfred E. Smith was born on this date in 1903. He was an African American administrative activist.

From Hot Springs, Arkansas, he left his hometown at the age of seventeen to attend Howard University in Washington, D. C. In 1932, Smith received his master's degree in history, and for the following year he worked as a substitute teacher in the Washington public schools. He then joined the Federal Works Progress Administration, beginning a life-long career in public service. Smith began as Assistant to the Director of the Negro Works, Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

From 1935 to 1943, he was Administrative Assistant and Staff adviser, of the Federal Works Progress Administration. In these positions, Smith acted as a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet" an unofficial group of black individuals in the upper reaches of the federal government who advised President Roosevelt on policies affecting black Americans. Smith worked in public relations, speech writing, and press advisory positions for the Public Housing Authority, the Federal Civil Defense Agency, and the Department of Labor. He also had an independent career as a successful journalist.

During the 1940s, Smith wrote two regular columns for the Chicago Defender newspaper, edited a Washington based newsletter, and contributed articles to a number of publications. Smith's other professional activities included founding the Capitol Press Club; a group of Washington based Black journalists. He was also active in various civil rights organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League, and formed a social group called the Gourmet Club.

These interests brought Smith into contact with many of the black leaders and produced friendships that included the poet Langston Hughes, Dean of the Howard University Medical School, W. Montague Cobb, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and writer Alain Locke. Alfred E. Smith retired from government service in 1974, and died May 26, 1986.

Reference:
University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Ave.
Fayetteville, AR 72701-4002

Person / name: 

Smith, Alfred E.