Daniel Smith, who was believed to be the last surviving child of an enslaved person, and who over a long and eventful life witnessed firsthand many of the central moments of the African American experience, died on Oct. 19 in Washington. He was 90.
His wife, Loretta Neumann, said the cause was congestive heart failure and bladder cancer.
Mr. Smith’s father, Abram Smith, was born into slavery during the Civil War in Virginia and was 70 when his much younger wife, Clara, gave birth to Daniel in 1932. While it is impossible to know for certain whether Daniel Smith was the last living child of an enslaved person, historians who have studied his generation say they do not know of any others.
Mr. Smith, a Connecticut-born retired federal employee, liked to say that he led a quiet, unexciting life. Yet he also joked that he was a bit like a “Black Forrest Gump”: He attended the March on Washington in 1963; crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965; and stood in the audience to watch Barack Obama take his first oath of office as president in 2009.
Daniel Smith, 90, Dies; Thought to Be the Last Child of an Enslaved Person
He led a life marked by encounters with touchstone moments in Black history, from the March on Washington to Barack Obama’s first inauguration.