Jaylen Smith, youngest African American mayor in U.S. history, to deliver Carleton convocation

 Smith was elected as the mayor of Earle, Arkansas at just 18 years old.

Luna Schindler-Payne ’26 21 February 2024 Posted In:
Portrait of a smiling Jaylen Smith in a suit, leaning against a light pole in a city.
Mayor Jaylen Smith

Jaylen Smith, the youngest African American mayor in U.S. history, will deliver the final winter term convocation at Carleton College on Friday, February 23 from 10:50 to 11:50 a.m. in Skinner Chapel. Smith was elected as mayor of Earle, Arkansas in December 2022 at just 18 years old, making him one of a select few teenagers to take office in U.S. history, and the youngest African American to ever become a mayor. A lifelong resident of Earle, Smith based his campaign on revitalizing the economy and infrastructure, in particular attracting a supermarket to the small city and increasing safety resources throughout the police and fire departments. Smith’s trailblazing career has attracted attention from national media, including appearances on CBS News, ABC News, The Jennifer Hudson Show, The Towanna Murphy Show, and a feature in The New York Times, among many others.

Prior to his term as mayor of Earle, Smith was president of Earle High School’s student government, class president, and was involved with the community and high school in numerous other ways. Smith graduated from Earle High School in 2022 and now attends Arkansas State University Mid-South online after completing his mayoral duties each day. Smith was also recognized with a President’s Award at the King Kennedy Awards of the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus in 2023.


This convocation will also be live streamed—please register in advance to receive information on how to attend via Zoom. Carleton convocations are free and open to the public. Find upcoming events and archived recordings (including in podcast form) on the convocations website. For more information, including disability accommodations, call 507-222-5461 or email nponder@carleton.edu.

After each convocation address, Carleton hosts a luncheon with the speaker. Convocation luncheon is held in the Alumni Guest House Meeting Room (unless otherwise noted) from 12 to 1 p.m. and is generally limited to 35 people. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP on the convocations website.