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Ernest Smith Papers

Identifier: LP000906

Scope and Content

The papers of Mr. Smith reflect his interest in black political action, his efforts to resist compulsory unionization, and his position on various civil rights issues.

Important subjects covered in this collection are: Agency shop; Albert C. Cleague; Agnostic rights; Detroit Federation of Teachers; Black political action; Freedom Now Party; Right-to-work organizations

Series Description: Series I, Freedom Now Party, 1964-69: Correspondence, minutes, publications and other papers relating to the Freedom Now Party and the campaign of Albert B. Cleague for election to the Detroit Common Council.

Series II, Detroit Public Schools, 1969-77: Correspondence, legal records and other papers relating to the effort to prevent the establishment of an agency shop in the Detroit public schools. There are also some papers relating to Smith's charges against the Detroit public schools on civil rights issues.


  • 1962 - 1977
  • Majority of material found within 1964 - 1971


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Ernest C. Smith was born December 17, 1925 in Chicago Heights, Illinois. He earned a Bachelor's degree in education at Northern Illinois University in 1949 and a master's degree in human relations at New York University in 1950. Mr. Smith taught social studies in Detroit public high schools becoming a department head.

He was involved in the black civil rights movement and found neither major political party satisfactory as a vehicle for black aspirations. He therefore helped found the Michigan Freedom Now Party, an all-black party which ran candidates in the general election of November, 1964. Mr. Smith was their candidate for U.S. senator and was chairman of the Wayne County Freedom Now Party.

From 1969 to 1977 Mr. Smith and other Detroit teachers were involved in a long legal struggle over the agency shop clause in the Detroit Federation of Teachers contract with the Detroit Board of Education. He was instrumental in the formation and operation of the Detroit Teachers Opposed to Compulsory Unionism. He became active in the Michigan Citizens for Right to Work and other national right-to-work committees.


1.5 Linear Feet (3 MB)


Ernest Smith was a teacher in the Detroit Public School System who was involved in the black civil rights movement. He helped found the Michigan Freedom Now Party, an all-black party, for whom he ran as candidate for U.S. senator. His papers reflect his interest in black political action, resistance to compulsory unionization, right-to-work organizations, and civil rights issues.


Arranged in 2 series – Series 1 (Box 1), and Series 2 (Boxes 2-3). Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject.


The papers of Ernest C. Smith were placed in the Archives of labor and Urban Affairs in December of 1978 and April of 1979.


Copies of The "Illustrated News" and "The Detroit Teacher" have been placed in the Archives Library. Photographs, posters, buttons, and bumper stickers from the Freedom Now Party, the Cleague campaign, and other campaigns have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collections.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in July 1982.
Guide to the Ernest Smith Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA