Albert Alexander Smith attended the High School of Ethical Culture and later became the first African American to study at the National Academy of Design.
He fought in World War I, returned to the United States after the war, but soon left again for Paris, attracted by the freedom he had encountered there. For the next twenty years, Smith lived and worked in the Montmartre district. While travelling in Europe, he produced etchings, mostly images of European landmarks, which in the early 20s were exhibited New York.
Smith's commissioned works now seem particularly interesting for their reproduction of stereotypical scenes of Negro country life or an imaginary tranquil past where gentile whites were happily served by contented Negroes.