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Gerald L. Smith

Gerald L. Smith is a native of Lexington, Kentucky. He earned his B.A, M.A., and Ph. D degrees from the University of Kentucky in history. He taught at the University of Memphis from 1988-1993. He is a full professor of history and a former holder of both the Theodore A. Hallam Professorship and  the  Martin Luther King Center Scholar-in Residence at the University of Kentucky. From 1997-2005, he served as the director of the African American Studies and Research Program at UK. He is  the former pastor of the Farristown Baptist Church in Berea, Kentucky. Since 2011 he has served as  pastor  of  the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Dr. Smith is the author, editor, or co-editor of five books. His most recent is an edited collection of pathbreaking essays titled: Slavery and Freedom in the Bluegrass State: Revisiting My Old Kentucky Home. The book received the 2023 University Press Publication Award from the Kentucky Historical Society. Professor Smith is co-editor of the University Press of Kentucky's book series on race and sports.  He is currently researching and writing a general history of Blacks in Kentucky. He has published more than forty articles, essays, and book reviews in historical journals and encyclopedias. He has served as a keynote speaker for numerous programs, consulted on various historical projects, lectured on college campuses, and conducted workshops for primary and secondary school teachers. He has appeared in historical documentaries which have aired on CBS, NBC, the ESPN film series, CBS Sports Network, TruTV and KET.  Dr. Smith is co-editor of the award-winning Kentucky African American Encyclopedia which was recognized with the Kentucky Archives Month Certificate for Merit for Writing/Publication. It was the Thomas D. Clark Medallion Book in 2015 and awarded the Kentucky Historical Society Publication Award in 2016. Choice described the book as a "brilliant compilation."

 Over the years, Professor Smith has served on many different boards and committees. He is the former Chair of the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission. He currently serves on the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation Board, the Mary Todd Lincoln House Board of Directors and as an advisory member of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. In June 2020, he was appointed by the mayor of Lexington to serve as Co-chair of the Commission for Racial Justice and Equality in Fayette County. The Commission's final report was formally submitted on October 23, 2020. In addition to being a pastor and professor he host a radio series on "Racial Justice and Equality" on the Eastern Standard, 88.9 FM (NPR for Central and Eastern Kentucky).

Some of his awards include selection as a National Faculty Scholar (1997); Who’s Who Among African Americans (2000); induction into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars of Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia (March 2000). He is a two-time recipient of the Evelyn Black Award from the UK Black Student Union (2005, 2017). He is a 2006 inductee into the Henry Clay High School Hall of Fame in Lexington, Kentucky; recipient of the 2011 Richard H. Collins Award from the Kentucky Historical Society, and one of six professors on campus chosen by the UK Alumni Association to receive the 2013 Great Teacher Award. In 2014 the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Personnel Cabinet presented him with the annual Charles W. Anderson Laureate (Medal) Award, its highest award given to individuals recognized for significant contributions to equal opportunity in their communities. He received the Racial Reconciliation Award (2015) and The Kente Cloth Award (2017) from Campbellsville University. He was named a recipient of the 2016 Living Legacy Award by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus during the 13th annual Black History Month Celebration at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. He was recognized as the Outstanding Professor by Fraternity and Sorority Greek Life at UK in 2017. He was awarded the 2018 University of Kentucky Inclusive Excellence Award and the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Service and Engagement Award. In 2019, he was inducted into the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. In 2021, he was one of five recipients of the inaugural Reginald L. Guy, Jr Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Kappa Tau Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. In April 2024, he received one of the two Legacy Legends Awards given by the Lexington Equine Academy. 

 He is married to the former Teresa Turner. They are the parents of two daughters.

Contact Information
1773 Patterson Office Tower
Research Interests
  • African American history
  • Race and Sports
  • Black Freedom Struggle
  • African American Education
  • Kentucky African American history
  • History
  • African American and Africana Studies