Lucy Harth Smith

November 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s

Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith, an African American activist and educator, was born in Virginia in 1888. She moved to Kentucky where she worked to improve the school systems for the black community and aimed to include black history in historical textbooks. She attended Hampton Institute, graduated from Kentucky State College, and then got her master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith was the principal of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Lexington, from 1935 to 1955.

Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith worked diligently to acquire textbooks for African American schools and libraries. She was involved with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History is an organization that researches, preserves, and promotes black history. Preserving and promoting black history was a passion of Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith; she worked ardently to include black history in school textbooks, primarily in the elementary schools.
Smith was also a speaker who lectured about civic, racial, and social improvements. She also served as the president of the Kentucky Negro Education Association, a powerful group that lobbied for educational improvements. Among her many accomplishments, Smith helped raise funds to establish The Colored Health Camp. This camp was free to parents of undernourished and frail children for two weeks with the goal of improving the children’s health.

During the remodeling of the Booker T. Washington School, the architects designed the building so the entrance was on the side of the building. Lucy Smith would not stand for that, she took the matter to the Lexington Board of Education and had the door moved to the front.

Selected resources:
“Famous Kentucky Women” pamphlet by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, revised May 1997,

Notable Black American Women, Book II. Jessie Carney Smith, editor. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1996. [NOTE: this book is available in many local libraries; here is a search in WorldCat –]

“Lucy Harth Smith,” Journal of Negro History 41 (Apr 1956): 177-179.  Retrieved from

2 responses to Lucy Harth Smith

  1. Dawn, take a look at the Kentucky Negro Education Association Journal. Vol. 10 issue 93. In this journal it describes the effort put forth by the Kentucky State legislature to educate children of color. It’s interesting to read because it sheds light on an issue that is commonly thought to be only addressed recently(as in 1954 to present). But this journal cites legislation such as the 1865 thirteenth amendment which officially freed African Americans in Kentucky and how work immediately, although perhaps without a doubt reluctantly, began to find support to educate black children. However, the journal article does mention that this effort ceased for various reasons in subsequent years.;cc=journals;rgn=full%20text;idno=kneav10n2;didno=kneav10n2;view=pdf;seq=13;page=root;size=s;frm=frameset

  2. Did you see that Karen McDaniel is listed in the references section of the article in Smith’s Notable Black American Women? She’s one of the editors of the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia:

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