Homer Smith Papers

Dates: 1957-1964
Size: 1 linear foot
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628



Provenance: Donated by Marjul Collins [niece to Homer Smith] in 1994
Access: No restrictions

When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is:

Homer Smith Papers [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Processed by: Beverly A. Cook, May 2021

Biographical Note

Homer Smith was born in Mississippi and raised in Minnesota. He left America in 1932 and moved to the Soviet Union with the impression that life there would provide racial equality. Instead, he found that Soviet society only offered a ‘poverty-line equality.’ There, he held several jobs including post office clerk and Russian to English translator for various publishers. Under the pen name Chatwood Hall, Smith wrote syndicated columns for the Black press.

He married Maria Petrovna in 1937 and became a Russian citizen in 1938. Smith was a war correspondent on the German-Russian front. He was the only journalist on location when Haile Sellasie invaded Ethiopia in 1941. Smith worked for the Chicago Defender and Associated Press. He served as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Negro Press, the New York Times and the London Times during World War II. The 14 years that he lived in Russia became the basis of his autobiography Black Man in Red Russia published by Johnson Publishing in 1964. He emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1946 to Ethiopia for 15 years. Homer Smith returned to the United States in 1963.

Later he went to work as a social studies editor at Lyons and Carnahan, a publishing company in Chicago. He died in the First Church of Deliverance Convalescent Home in Chicago on August 14, 1972.


Scope and Content

Smith’s unpublished book, tentatively titled “Ethiopian Safari,” shed light on his years in Ethiopia after leaving Russia. Smith was Minister of Information in Addis Ababa from 1947 to 1961. There is also a poem by Jerry Parker who worked with Smith at Lyons and Carnahan on the south side of Chicago.

Related materials

Related materials at the Chicago Public Library include:

Container List

Box 1 Folder 1 “Newsman who Became Russian, Seeks Entry to United States,” Jet, 1957 November 28
Box 1 Folder 2 “HIM Decorates Journalist,” Ethiopian Herald, 1962 May 22
Box 1 Folder 3 Fambro, Theresa. “A Family Reunion and Feast,” Chicago Defender, 1963 August 8
Box 1 Folder 4 Johnson Publishing Company invitation to Homer Smith reception, 1964 July 22
Box 1 Folder 5 Newspaper obituary clippings on Homer Smith, 1972
Box 1 Folder 6 Correspondence, Acker, Fay to Marjul E. Collins, 1978 July 17
Box 1 Folder 7 Correspondence, Smith, Homer, undated
Box 1 Folder 8 Smith, Homer. Ethiopian Safari, undated [pages 1-49]
Box 1 Folder 9 Smith, Homer. Ethiopian Safari, undated [pages 50-99]
Box 1 Folder 10 Smith, Homer. Ethiopian Safari, undated [pages 100-149]
Box 1 Folder 11 Smith, Homer. Ethiopian Safari, undated [pages 150-169]
Box 1 Folder 12 Parker, Jerry. “To Homer—Address Unknown—Forwarding Address: You,” 1994
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