Frank Smith Horne (1899-1974)

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Frank Horne was a Harlem Renaissance poet and a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) “Black Cabinet.” Throughout his public career, including his years with the U.S. Housing Authority, Horne was an outspoken opponent of racial segregation in public and private housing. Horne was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 18, 1899 to Edwin and Cora Horne, prominent members of middle class black New York and the early members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Horne graduated from City College of New York in 1921 and received a doctor of optometry degree from Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology in 1923.  Horne returned to New York and opened a practice in Harlem as an eye doctor.

In 1925, Horne received second place in the Amy Spingarn Literary Award contest for his “Letters Found Near a Suicide.”  The poem was published in the NAACP’s Crisis magazine and later included in Alain Locke’s New Negro anthology of the Harlem Renaissance.  Other Horne poems would be collected in the anthology Haverstraw, which appeared in 1963.  Horne also wrote reviews for the Urban League’s Opportunity magazine.

In 1927, Frank Horne went to Georgia to become the Dean and later President at Fort Valley High and Industrial School (which subsequently became Fort Valley State College in 1939).  During this time he married Frankye Bunn.  Horne, the uncle of actress Lena Horne, briefly served as her guardian when she began her film career.

In 1936, Horne took the first of a series of government appointments when he was recruited to Washington, D.C., by Mary McLeod Bethune as assistant director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration (NYA). In 1938, he began work for the U.S. Housing Authority on minority housing issues and eventually became Director of the Office of Race Relations.  During this time he advised the FDR administration on racism in public housing, project planning, labor employment in housing construction, management, and public policies.  He continued with the U.S. Housing Authority until 1955.  In 1956, Horne became the Executive Director for the New York City Commission on Intergroup Relations which the following year developed the nation’s first laws against discrimination in public housing.  Horne also introduced the Open City Housing Project to promote racially integrated neighborhoods.  In 1962 Horne became a member of the New York City Housing Redevelopment Board and also founded the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing.

By 1974, after much ongoing suffering throughout his life, Dr. Frank Horne died from complications of arteriosclerosis on September 7, 1974 in New York City.