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Arthur W. Mitchell
On this date, Arthur Mitchell was born in 1883. He was a Black teacher, administrator, and politician. He was the first Black representative elected as a Democrat in the United States.
Arthur Wergs Mitchell was from Lafayette, AL. He attended public schools and entered the Tuskegee Institute in 1897. He worked his way through school as a laborer and as an office boy for Booker T. Washington. He eventually taught in rural schools with an emphasis on farm management, and he served as president of Agricultural School in West Butler, AL, for ten years. Mitchell began practicing law in Washington D.C. in 1927, and two years later moved to Chicago where he had some dealings in real estate.
He was elected to the 74th Congress in 1935, denouncing the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and condemning the Mussolini regime. In 1937, Mitchell traveled to Arkansas. As the train crossed the state line Mitchell was forced to ride the rest of the way in a decrepit “Jim Crow” car. He immediately challenged transportation segregation through political means.
Throughout his career, Mitchell issued bills holding state and local offices accountable for lynchings and prohibiting racial discrimination. He chose not to run for reelection in 1942. Arthur Mitchell died on May 9, 1968.
Black Americans In Congress, 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990