Oral Histories

Interview of Ernest H. Smith

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science professor of medicine. Education and health activist.
Twenty-Five Years of Community Organizing and Institution Building in the Aftermath of Watts: 1965-1990
Social Movements
African American History
Community Activism
Biographical Note:
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science professor of medicine. Education and health activist.
Stevenson, Alva Moore
Smith, Ernest H.
Persons Present:
Smith and Stevenson.
Place Conducted:
UCLA Center for Oral History Research offices in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alva Moore Stevenson, Series Coordinator, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; B.A., English, UCLA; M.A., African American Studies (Latin American Concentration).Stevenson prepared for the interview by perusing the files of Congress member Alfred S. Moore and various primary and secondary sources related to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and urban unrest in the U.S.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Smith did not review the transcript, and therefore some proper names may remain unverified.
8 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents community organizations and institutions that arose in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion to address issues such as education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and police harassment. The first phase of the series involved interviews with key organizers of the Black Congress, an umbrella organization of Black activist groups whose purpose was to reconstruct the community.
Family origins in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and North and South Carolina—Mother’s mixed race origins—Family’s participation in Revolutionary War—Family’s independent thought and consciousness—Education of Smith’s mother—Brook’s School—Paucity of high schools for Black children and taboo on educating Black children—Education of Smith’s father—Father’s occupation as a steelworker for Bethlehem Steel—Boroughs in Bethlehem—Moravian influence on the city—Reform of vice in the city—African American population in towns of Lehigh Valley and environs—Ministerial alliance—Cocooning and community roles of children—Racial, ethnic, and language diversity in Bethlehem—Difference between the northern and southern Black experience—Names of parents and grandparents—Alleged family ties to Cotton Mather—Mother’s occupation as a dressmaker and avocation as a schoolteacher—Paucity of positions for Black professionals—Socialization of Black youth—Class divisions—Coed and Scholarship Clubs—Activities which promoted practical skills and education—Early and secondary education—Snobbery based on language and not race—Camaraderie in Northampton Heights—Prejudice against ethnic Europeans and Jews—Class struggles—Memorable teachers—Perspective of the worker—Smith’s brothers—Playing in the band—Experiences performing music—Mrs. Lucy Kissen—College career at Lincoln University—First experience with a historically Black university--Accepting Blacks as instructors—Learning to be Black—Seeing people through color consciousness—Role of religion in Smith’s upbringing—Differences in church denominations according to geographic origins and class.
Smith's ancestors' conversion to Christianity—Effect of slavery on learning processes of Black children—Lincoln University—Advantages of all-male schooling—Racial dynamics in higher education—Rabbling—Affirmative Action—Preventative medicine and quality of life for children—Graha Movement—Fighting segregation in Pennsylvania—Influential African American males at Lincoln—Decision to pursue pediatrics—Organizing children’s choirs—Career of Dr. Alfred Haynes—Haynes as pioneer of preventative and community medicine—Haynes recruits Smith for King Hospital—Haynes undermined as head—Predicting rebellions around the nation in early 1960s—Different nature of Watts Rebellion—Reasons for development of King Hospital and Charles Drew University—Forming consortium of pediatric cardiologists—Maximizing quality of healthcare—Concerned Citizens Committees at local high schools—Retreat of social services—COINTELPRO and nationwide war against African American community—Genocide against African American community—Key players at King Hospital—Importance of nursing staff—Los Angeles Times articles—Legislative dynamics of King Hospital’s decline—Healthcare needs—Causes for current increased morbidity rates—Immediate effects of hospital’s opening—Child Health and Disability Prevention (CHDP) programs--Programs to maximize quality of life—Camping program in conjunction with Housing Authority—Dealing with gangs and gang violence—Necessity of a slush fund.
Elected officials who were supporters of King Hospital—County supervisors who facilitated hospital’s decline—“Machines” that run Los Angeles—Legacy of L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn in Black community—Silent approval for programs in the housing projects—Peer grouping determined by socioeconomic status—Gang members as “social workers”—Humanizing victims of violence—Camping programs—Nursing staff at King Hospital—Surveillance and harassment by LAPD—Displacement of Black residents—Seeing King Hospital in academic terms—Standards compliance versus addressing healthcare needs—Application for residencies—Residencies at University of Minnesota and D.C. General—Veiled racism and classism—Watts College of Child Development—Establishing pediatric school health association in Compton—Smith’s interactions with medical students—Diversity of the students—McCone Commission Report singles out healthcare needs as major issue—Charter of Charles R. Drew Medical University—Quality of Drew University graduates—“Choking off “ King Hospital—Los Angeles Times articles in 2003—Key players in Drew University’s early days—Association of King Drew University with UCLA—Attempts to change name of King Hospital—Naming King Drew University— King/Drew Magnet High School—Dearth of male role models and efficacy of Black male boarding schools—“Community Under Siege”—Contextualization of African American needs—Black anger at immigrants—Genocide—South Central Welfare Planning press conference—Graffiti study—Origin of the University of the Streets—Walking the “chalk line”—Failure of church leaders to address issues.