Born on September 24, 1930 in Greensboro, North Carolina
Activist, Writer, Librarian and Scholar
Interviewed by Karly Campbell
2005 Visionary Heritage Fellow
Dr. Jessie Carney Smith was born September 14, 1930 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Born into the segregated South during the Jim Crow era, she learned to turn adversity into opportunity. Dr. Smith attained degrees during a time when women, particularly African American women, were not expected to do so. She is the author of numerous publications including books, edited works and research articles, and is well noted for her work as a librarian and educator.
Both of her parents graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College and her father ran a small business in Greensboro. Dr. Smith is one of four children, and has a twin brother. She graduated from North Carolina A&T with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics. Her desire to attain her master’s degree took her to Cornell University. She soon married and had a son. After a brief leave from school, she returned to Michigan State University where she received her master’s degree in 1955 in Child Development. Smith went on to receive her master’s degree in Library Science from George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in 1957 and earned a Ph. D. in Library Science from the University of Illinois in 1964. Dr. Smith became the first African American to receive a Ph. D. in library science from that institution.
In 1957, Dr. Smith became head of cataloguing and coordinator of library science at Fisk University, while also working as a Nashville city school teacher. She began her current position as head librarian in 1965.
Dr. Smith began exploring her passion for writing as a way of bridging the gaps in scholarship. In 1992 she published the award winning, Notable African American Women and went on to publish Notable African American Men in 1999. Her other books include, Black Firsts: 2000 Years of Extraordinary Achievement in 1994, Statistical Record of Black America in 1995 and Black Firsts: 4000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events in 2003.
Dr. Smith has won many honors and awards, including the National Women's Book Association Award in 1992 and the Martin Luther King Black Authors Award in 1982.
URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/smithjessie