Activist Daniel Smith, son of a slave, dead at 90
Daniel R. Smith, an activist and the son of a man born into slavery, died on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., at the age of 90.
Smith, who was born when his father Abram “A.B.” Smith was 70, was one of the last remaining children of slaves.
His father was enslaved during the Civil War as a child in Virginia before moving north to Connecticut. He told Smith and his siblings stories of his time in slavery before his death when Smith was 6.
“I remember hearing about two slaves who were chained together at the wrist and tried to run away,” Smith said, according to The Washington Post.
“They were found by some vicious dogs hiding under a tree, and hanged from it.”
Smith said that his father, who married a white woman named Clara Smith, would cry as he told his children horrifying stories of mistreatment.
The younger Smith’s memoir, “Son of a Slave: A Black Man’s Journey in White America,” is forthcoming, edited by African American author Sana Butler.
“You talk about the transatlantic slave trade, you talk about Reconstruction, and people really think that it’s history,” Butler told the Post, saying the memoir will be “a reminder that slavery was not that long ago.”
“Mr. Smith is a reminder that it’s impossible to ‘get over it,’ because it’s still within these families’ lives,” she said of slavery.
Smith, the second youngest of the Smith children, told the Post in 2020 that being a child of A.B. Smith “sustained” him and his siblings “through anything.”
A.B. Smith instilled in his children a love and respect for the country in which they grew up, despite the evils he experienced throughout his life, Daniel Smith said.
“We could never talk negatively about America in front of my father,” Smith said in 2021.
“He did not have much but he really, really loved America. Isn’t that funny?”
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