Robert C. Smith’s passing was a major loss to Black Politics and the broader field of political science. Born in the rural South, Smith belonged to a generation of Louisiana-born scholars that centered racial politics—more specifically, the unique experiences of African Americans and their liberation struggles—at the forefront of the political science discipline.

Smith documented his life story in a must-read memoir, From the Bayou to the Bay: The Autobiography of a Black Liberation Scholar, published two years before his death. In the book, he takes the reader on a remarkable life journey from a childhood of poverty structured by racial segregation to becoming one of the great political scientists in the last fifty years.

He achieved this honor not by conformity but on his own terms. He seldom attended the American Political Science Association, Midwest Political Science Association, or other flagship professional associations. His work rarely appeared in...

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