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Homer Smith Papers

Identifier: harsh-1994-06

Scope and Contents

Smith’s unpublished book, tentatively titled “Ethiopian Safari,” shed light on his years in Ethiopia after leaving Russia.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.


  • 1957-1964


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restriction

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection

Biographical / Historical

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.


1 Linear Feet (in 1 box)

Language of Materials



Homer Smith’s memoir, Black Man in Red Russia, was published and promoted by Johnson Publishing Company in 1964. The collection includes an unpublished manuscript by Smith highlighting his life in Ethiopia in the mid-twentieth century.


There are 3 series in this collection: Biography, Manuscript and Correspondence. The Biography and Correspondence series are in chronological order. The Manuscript of his unpublished book is in the author’s pagination order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Marjul Collins [niece to Homer Smith] in 1994

Related Materials

Related materials at the Chicago Public Library include:

  • Era Bell Thompson Papers


Guide to the Homer Smith Papers
Beverly A. Cook
May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection Repository

Woodson Regional Library
Chicago Public Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Chicago IL 60628 United States
(312) 745-2080