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Wed, 12.02.1903

Alfred E. Smith, Administrator born

Federal Council on Negro Affairs

Alfred E. Smith was born on this date in 1903. He was a Black administrative activist.

From Hot Springs, Arkansas, he was the son of Jesse Rufus and Mamie Florence (Johnson) Smith.  He left his hometown at seventeen to attend Howard University in Washington, D. C.  In 1926; he married Leona Louise Dadson. In 1932, Smith received his master's degree in history, and in the following year, he worked as a substitute teacher in Washington public schools. He then joined the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), 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 an Administrative Assistant and Staff adviser of the WPA. In these positions, Smith acted as a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet," an unofficial group of Blacks in the upper reaches of the federal government who advised the President on policies affecting Black America.  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 journalist.

During the 1940s, Smith wrote two regular columns for the Chicago Defender newspaper, edited a Washington-based newsletter, and contributed articles to several 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. He formed a social group called the Gourmet Club.

These interests brought Smith into contact with many Black leaders. They 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 on May 26, 1986.


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