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Sam Smith Papers

Identifier: 154

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of materials related to the personal, professional, and political life of Samuel H. “Sam” Smith. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, both personal and professional, and copies of his numerous writings, excluding his four published books. Additional materials include military and educational records, photographs, ephemera, subject files, materials related to various organizations, and audio visual items.


  • Creation: 1937 - 2009

Conditions Governing Access

There are no known restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Mr. Smith retains copyright to any previously published and copyrighted materials. DC Public Library holds copyright to all other materials in this collection. Noncommerical use is permitted. Please contact with questions.

Biographical / Historical

Sam Smith is a writer, activist and social critic who has been publishing alternative news sources since 1964. Born Samuel Frederick Houston Smith in Washington, DC in 1937, Smith grew up in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area graduating from Germantown Friends School in 1955. He attended Harvard University, earning a degree in anthropology in 1959. During his time at Harvard he worked at the campus radio station WHRB, serving as the News Director, Station Manager, and member of the Administrative Board. After graduation he joined the staff of WWDC as a newsman covering Capitol Hill, the White House, and other local and national stories. In 1960, Smith enlisted in the United States Coast Guard, serving as the operations officer and navigator for three years. Following his military service, Smith returned to Washington, DC, once again working at WWDC. In 1964, he launched a small local magazine called The Idler. Although Smith had received offers to write for the New York Times and the Washington Post, he turned them down in order to follow his pursuit of alternative journalism. In 1965, he took part in a day-long boycott of DC Transit organized by the local chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Smith spent the day giving rides to boycotters and then published an article, “The Day the Buses Ran Empty,” about his experience. The article caught the attention of boycott organizers and the SNCC DC Chapter chair Marion Barry who approached Smith seeking help with public relations. Thus began a long relationship with the future Mayor. Following his marriage to Kathryn Schneider in 1966, Smith started publishing the Capitol East Gazette, to largely cover the poorer Black communities in Washington. The paper covered issues such as education, freeway development, urban renewal, and poverty issues. In 1969, the paper was renamed the DC Gazette and became a city-wide alternative newspaper. During these years, Smith became an outspoken advocate of DC Statehood, and helped found the DC Statehood Party in 1971. In 1974, Smith published his first book Captive Capital; Colonial Life in Modern Washington, which has remained as one of the fifty essential DC history books. Smith became a guest commentator for NPR and the Washington correspondent for the Illustrated London News in 1980. The DC Gazette was rebranded as the Progressive Review in 1984, focusing more on national issues and politics. Smith stopped publishing print editions, switching the paper to an all-digital format in 2004. He has published three additional books, Shadows of Hope: A Freethinker’s Guide to Politics in the Time of Clinton (1994); Sam Smith’s Great American Political Repair Manual: How to Rebuild Our Country so the Politics Aren't Broken and Politicians Aren't Fixed (1997); and Why Bother?: Getting a Life in a Locked-Down Land (2001). Smith lives in Maine and remains politically active.


42.25 Linear feet

92 Boxes

Language of Materials



Series 1: Correspondence, 1937-2000, undated (bulk: 1959-1999)
Series 2: Writings, 1953-1999, undated
Series 3: Transcripts, 1954-1960
Series 4: Personal Files, 1937-1999, undated
Series 5: Education, 1944-1959, undated
Series 6: Business Records, 1957-1982, undated
Series 7: Military Records, 1957-1997, undated
Series 8: Organizations, 1971-2000, undated
Series 9: Subject Files, 1949-1999, undated
Series 10: Advisory Neighborhood Commission, 1966-1983
Series 11: Printed Materials, 1950-2009, undated
Series 12: Writings not by Smith, 1971-2000, undated
Series 13: Clippings, 1951-2000, undated
Series 14: Ephemera, undated
Series 15: Photographs, 1951-1989, undated
Series 16: Audio Visual, 1944-2000, undated
Series 17: Sheet Music

Custodial History

Collection was donated to the Library by Sam Smith in several installments starting in September of 1999 and concluding in 2001.

Related Materials

Washingtoniana Periodicals Collection
Julius Hobson, Collection 001
Josephine Butler, Collection 134

Processing Information

Standard archival procedures were followed during processing. Materials were divided into seventeen (17) series and were arranged within those series by title or date, where applicable. Some materials within several series were originally housed in binders or envelopes; these items were disassembled. Triplicates, or more, of items were discarded along with binders, clips, and storage envelopes. Separation sheets were used to relocate items based on format or preservation concerns. Many newspaper clippings were copied onto acid-free paper and the originals were discarded. Redacted copies of materials containing personal or private information were made and the originals were destroyed.

Sam Smith Papers
An inventory of the Sam Smith Papers at DC Public Library
Finding aid prepared by Mark Greek
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001