90-year-old descendant of a man born into slavery passed away

By greatbritton

Daniel Robert Smith, 90, descendant of man born into slavery in Virginia during the Civil War passed away last week. Smith passed away at a hospital in Washington D.C. according to The Washington Post. His wife Loretta Neumann says he had cancer and congestive heart failure.

Smith, the fifth of six children was born on March 11, 1932, in Winsted, Conn. His father, Abram “A.B.” Smith — 70 at the time and working as a janitor passed away in an automobile accident when he was 6 years old. Smith mother, 23-year-old Clara (Wheeler) Smith, was reportedly white with Scotch-Irish and Cherokee ancestry.

“I remember hearing [from my father] about two slaves who were chained together at the wrist and tried to run away. They were found by some vicious dogs hiding under a tree and hanged from it,” Smith told The Post.

He also talked about the story about an enslaved man accused of lying to his owner.

“He was made to step out into the snow with his family and put his tongue on an icy wagon wheel until it stuck,” Smith said, The Post reported. “When he tried to remove it, half his tongue came off.”

Smith served as an Army medic during the Korean War and later marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington. He also protested next to civil rights activists in Selma, and ran anti-poverty and literacy initiatives in rural Alabama.

During Smith’s life he had a few racist encounters one that happened while he was working at a YMCA camp. It started when a swimmer had rescued a young white woman from the deep waters, and Smith started giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after noticing she still had a pulse. A uniformed police officer said the woman was dead and demanded that he stop trying to save her.

“This remains the most racist incident I have ever experienced in my life,” Smith wrote in “Son of a Slave: A Black Man’s Journey in White America,” his pending memoir, according to The Post. “To this day, telling this story brings tears to my eyes. To think that someone would rather have anyone die rather than have her white lips touch my Black mouth. Incomprehensible.”

Smith would later relocated to Washington, D.C., where he oversaw the Area Health Education Centers.  He alleged to have turned down an offer from the CIA to spy on the African National Congress liberation movement.

He fathered two children with his first wife, Sandra Hawkins. After his retirement in 1994, Smith volunteered at Washington National Cathedral, serving as head usher and escorting presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. His first marriage ended in divorce, and in 2006, he wed Neumann.

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