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Maxine Smith

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Information about Maxine Smith

Profile image of Maxine Smith

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Executive Secretary
Foreign Languages Professor
Civil Rights Activist
State Government Employee

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Pasta
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cruises
Favorite Quote:
I Gave It My Best Shot.

Birthplace

Born:
10/31/1929
Birth Location:
Memphis, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Executive Secretary
Foreign Languages Professor
Civil Rights Activist
State Government Employee

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Pasta
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cruises
Favorite Quote:
I Gave It My Best Shot.

Birthplace

Born:
10/31/1929
Birth Location:
Memphis
See how Maxine Smith is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Civil rights activist, executive secretary, and state government employee Maxine Smith was born on October 31, 1929, in Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and went on to receive her B.A. degree in biology from Spelman College and her M.S. degree in French from Middlebury College. In 1957, Smith applied to the University of Memphis and was rejected because of her race. This brought her to the attention of the local NAACP chapter, which she joined and became executive secretary of in 1962.

Having helped to organize the desegregation of Memphis public schools in 1960, Smith also escorted the first thirteen Memphis children to benefit from the Memphis school desegregation. Smith continued to fight for civil rights and school integration throughout her career, organizing lawsuits, sit-ins, and marches, including the “Black Monday” student boycotts that lasted from 1969 to 1972. Smith served on the coordinating committee for the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that Martin Luther King Jr. travelled to Memphis to support before his assassination.

In 1971, Smith won election to the Memphis Board of Education, a position which she held until her retirement in 1995. In 1978, Smith was instrumental in ensuring W.W. Herenton’s election as the first African American school superintendant in Memphis, kicking off his political career. Smith was elected president of the Memphis Board of Education in 1991, the same year that her protégée Herenton became the first elected African American Mayor of Memphis.

Smith received more than 160 awards for her efforts on behalf of educational equality and civil rights, including the National NAACP Leadership Award, the Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Whitney H. Young Jr. Award from the National Education Association. She was a member of the board of directors for many charitable and civic organizations, including The National Civil Rights Museum, the NAACP, the Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis, and the National Kidney Foundation. Smith has also been featured in several documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement, including Oscar-nominated Witness From the Balcony of Room 306 and Memphis: The Promised Land . She passed away on April 26, 2013.

See how Maxine Smith is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maxine Smith's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith talks about her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes her mother's teaching career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith remembers her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith describes how her parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about her father's education and employment
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith lists her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith describes her community in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith remembers visiting her father at the Memphis Veterans Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her early family life, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith describes her early personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her early family life, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith remembers her parents' finances
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her upbringing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith describes her schooling
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith remembers her father's burial
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about being the youngest of her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith remembers the Tri-State Fair in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith recalls her family's periodical subscriptions
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith remembers Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith remembers enrolling at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith remembers joining the board of the NAACP
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith recalls the language program at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes her courtship with her husband, Vasco Smith, Jr., pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith describes her courtship with her husband, Vasco Smith, Jr., pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith talks about her husband's upbringing
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith remembers returning to Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith talks about her social circle in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith remembers joining the Memphis branch of the NAACP
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith talks about her experiences at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Maxine Smith talks about her social circle in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith talks about the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith recalls the agenda of the NAACP Memphis Branch, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith recalls the agenda of the NAACP Memphis Branch, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes Memphis Mayor E.H. Crump's political machine
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith remembers her high school principal, Blair T. Hunt, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith describes the voter registration drives in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about voter disenfranchisement in Shelby County, Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith remembers the elections of Russell B. Sugarmon and A.W. Willis, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith remembers attending the March on Washington
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith reflects upon the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith remembers the death of Medgar Evers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith talks about the Tennessee General Assembly elections of 1964
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith remembers confronting the Board of Education of Memphis City Schools
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her civic service
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith talks about the Black Monday boycotts in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith remembers the support for her school board candidacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith recalls meeting W.W. Herenton
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith recalls W.W. Herenton's election as superintendent of the Memphis City Schools, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith recalls W.W. Herenton's election as superintendent of the Memphis City Schools, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith talks about Memphis Mayor W.W. Herenton's leadership
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith talks about her support for congressional candidate Steve Cohen
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith talks about the political climate in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith talks about the political climate of Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith describes the founding of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith talks about the National Civil Rights Museum
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith reflects upon the legacy of her husband, Vasco Smith, Jr.
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes how she would like to be remembered