The Washington Syndicate

DC Archives of the Day_ Sam Smith, “Fire”

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on February 8, 2010

Excerpt from “Fire” from Multitudes: the Unauthorized Memoirs of Sam Smith 

Larry Rosen behind the counter of Smiths Store on 14th Street NW before the riots burnt the store to the ground. Doc Jones also pictured behind the counter. Photo Courtesy of Larry Rosen


Sam Smith is a legendary DC /American journalist and political activist. Smith, always steps ahead of his peers, was an early pioneer in alternative media with the longtime national journal, Progressive Review which has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine. 

It was a city in which the American dream and the American tragedy passed each other on the street and did not speak. It was, finally, a city that had suffered a form of deprivation known primarily to the poor and the imprisoned, a psychological deprivation born of the constant suppression and denial of one’s identity, worth, or purpose by those in control. Washington to those in power was not a place but a hall to rent. The people of Washington were the custodian staff. And the renters were as likely to visit the world in which this staff lived as a parishioner is to inspect the boiler room of the church. The purpose of Washington’s community was to serve not to be. Its school children were not taught the history of their city; they were told little of its significant men and women. There was no city festival or parade.  

In fact, this repository of national history didn’t even have a local history museum. The city’s present was suppressed, its future was a hostage, and its past was ignored.  

This was the city that civil rights activists and other reformers determined to – and did – change. This change was cultural as well as political and increasingly the old ways and the new found themselves in conflict. For example, having discovered that there were more African-American books in the libraries in the white parts of town than in the black city, I decided I better check out the meetings of the library board of trustees. There I found not only an all-white board but a chair in his 90s serving his colleagues tea and cookies.”

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