Preston H. Smith II

Class of 1926 Professor of Politics
Postwar black politics with an emphasis on housing and class. Inner-city neighborhood revitalization including economic development, affordable housing, quality public education, and equal and adequate delivery of municipal services
Preston Smith's research interests in urban studies and postwar black politics are reflected in his many publications and presentations. He has been published in such journals as the Journal of Urban History and edited volumes such as Without Justice For All. He has made presentations at Social Science History Association meeting, Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics, Institute for Social Policy Studies, at Yale University, and The Centennial of W.E.B. DuBois’s Souls of Black Folks symposium at Williams College. His most recent book, Racial Democracy and the Black Metropolis: Housing Policy in Postwar Chicago (Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012) examines housing debates in Chicago that go beyond black and white politics, showing how class and factional conflicts among African Americans actually helped to reproduce stunning segregation along economic lines.

Smith's commitment to urban studies led to his becoming Director of the Community-Based Learning (CBL) program at the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. Smith's Involvement with CBL began with his development of an advanced seminar that utilized CBL pedagogy. In this class students interact with local communities through community-based research and service, allowing them to enhance their understanding of public concerns while fostering leadership and advocacy skills.

Smith is part of group who developed a faculty seminar that examines Puerto Rican history and culture in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and on the island. The unique feature of this seminar is that it combines area college faculty and community leaders from Holyoke. It is targeted to faculty and community-based organizations that collaborate on community-university partnerships. Since many of the families living in Holyoke are Puerto Rican, the seminar focuses on educating CBL students on Puerto Rican history and culture.

Smith believes that one of the ways to best teach politics is to be politically engaged. He is a member of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party, an independent political party that comes out of the labor movement. The Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, which is the educational and cultural arm of the Labor Party, sponsors the Free Public Higher Education campaign. Smith is currently the co-chair of the Institute's national campaign, which asserts that higher education is a necessity in today’s economy and society and, therefore, should be paid for by the federal government. Modeled after the GI Bill®, the campaign would cost $34 billion if everyone currently enrolled at a public institution were to have free tuition and fees. Recuperating the tax cuts that have not benefited working families in this country could pay for this amount.

In addition to his popular community development course, Smith also teaches American Politics; Black Urban Reform; Racial Stratification and Urban Political Economy; and Black and Latino Politics.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at

Recent Campus News

Elena Frogameni ’22, from Northampton MA, looking into the camera

Scholarship supports senior from Western Mass

Mount Holyoke student Elena Frogameni ’22 has been named the recipient of the Western Massachusetts Scholarship Fund for this past academic year.

Image of Preston Smith teaching a class.

Exploring the Great Migration

In celebration of Black History Month, Mount Holyoke’s Preston Smith talks about the Great Migration: its causes, repercussions and more.

Diana Wells of Ashoka will speak at Mount Holyoke College’s Global Challenges Conference on Feb. 16, 2018.

Giving students an engaged global education

This year’s Global Challenges Conference focuses on changing global–local inequalities and features keynote speaker Diana Wells of Ashoka. 

Recent Mentions in the Media

Recent Publications

Smith, P., Bennett, L., & Paral, R. (2021) Making the Third Ghetto. Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City

How new is urban renewal? Class, redevelopment and Black politics., 29. Retrieved from: