Arthur W. Mitchell
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Illinois's 1st district
January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1943
|Preceded by||Oscar De Priest|
|Succeeded by||William Dawson|
|Born||December 22, 1883|
|Died||May 9, 1968 (aged 84)|
|Political party||Republican (Until 1932) Democratic (After 1932)|
|Spouse||Eula Mae King (m. January 11, 1905 – d. 1910) 1 son
Annie H. Mitchell (married c. 1919 – d. March 7, 1947)Clara D. Smith (m. March 20, 1948 – his death May 9, 1968)
Arthur Wergs Mitchell, Sr. (December 22, 1883 – May 9, 1968), was a U.S. Representative from Illinois and civil rights activist. Representing Illinois's 1st congressional district, for his entire congressional career from 1935 to 1943, he was the only African American in Congress. A supporter of the New Deal, Mitchell was the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat.
Mitchell was born to Taylor Mitchell and Emma (Patterson) in Lafayette, Alabama. He left home at 14 to go to the Tuskegee Institute. He worked on a farm and as an office boy to Booker T. Washington while attending the Institute. Mitchell attended Columbia University briefly and qualified for the bar. He then moved to Chicago, Illinois and began to work for the Republican Party. Mitchell switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in 1932 as he was “ambitious and impatient with the entrenched black Republican leadership, [seeking] a chance for personal advancement in the concurrent rise of the national Democratic party." He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and served as its 6th International President from 1926–1934.
Mitchell was elected to the House of Representatives in 1934, defeating African American congressman Oscar De Priest, who was a Republican. During the election campaign, Mitchell emphasized his support for the New Deal and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's public relief programs, in addition to criticizing De Priest's opposition to segregation as ineffective. After Mitchell won the election with 53% of the vote, De Priest told him "I congratulate you as [the] first Negro Democratic congressman."
In Congress, Mitchell introduced bills banning lynching and against discrimination. He filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Central and Rock Island Railroads after he was forced into a segregated train car just before it passed into Arkansas. Mitchell's suit was advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court as case Mitchell v. United States, which ruled that the railroad violated the Interstate Commerce Act. He voluntarily chose not to seek re-election in 1942. As his last congressional act, Mitchell condemned politicians as preferring the Axis powers over giving Negros any rights, comparing the atrocities of the Nazis and Japanese with lynchings such as those that had recently occurred in Shubuta, Mississippi.
Despite having been elected to Congress in part on campaigning against De Priest's civil rights record as weak, Mitchell himself faced accusations by civil rights advocates of making insufficient efforts. In one instance, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People deemed his introduced anti-lynching bill as too lenient.
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell||6,812||42.2|
|Democratic||Edgar G. Brown||1,117||6.9|
|Democratic||Frank J. Staufer||781||4.8|
|Democratic||Albert E. Redd||204||1.3|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell||27,963||53.0|
|Republican||Oscar DePriest (incumbent)||24,829||47.0|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell (incumbent)||16,332||79.5|
|Democratic||George C. Adams||2,491||12.1|
|Democratic||Hugh J. Daly||1,722||8.4|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell (incumbent)||35,376||55.1|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell (incumbent)||16,995||81.6|
|Democratic||Augustus L. Williams||2,703||13.0|
|Democratic||James P. Durden||1,132||5.4|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell (incumbent)||30,207||53.4|
|Republican||William L. Dawson||26,396||46.6|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell (incumbent)||17,767||84.1|
|Democratic||Willard S. Townsend||3,358||15.9|
|Democratic||Arthur W. Mitchell (incumbent)||34,641||53.0|
|Republican||William E. King||30,698||47.0|
- List of African-American firsts
- List of African-American United States representatives
- List of Phi Beta Sigma brothers
- Mitchell, Arthur Wergs. US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
- Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: 78.
- "Representative Arthur Mitchell of Illinois Defeats Incumbent Oscar De Priest | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
- De Priest, Oscar Stanton. US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
- 313 U.S. 80 (1941)
- "Mitchell says too many prefer axis victory to granting negro rights". Jackson Advocate. December 26, 1942. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
- "Downloadable Vote Totals". Illinois State Board of Elections. Retrieved 2022-10-11.[permanent dead link]
- United States Congress. "Arthur Wergs Mitchell (id: M000805)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Barnes, Catherine A. (1983). Journey From Jim Crow: The Desegregation of Southern Transit. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231053808.
- O'Connor, Allison (November 14, 2007). Arthur Wergs Mitchell (1883–1968). BlackPast.
- "Arthur Wergs Mitchell, 1883–1968". Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 (PDF). United States Government Printing Office. 2008. pp. 286–291. ISBN 9780160801945.
- Nordin, Dennis Sven (September 18, 2007). "Arthur Wergs Mitchell". The Encyclopedia of Alabama. Auburn University, University of Alabama, Alabama State Department of Education. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- Nordin, Dennis Sven (1997). The New Deal's Black Congressman: A Life of Arthur Wergs Mitchell. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 9780826211026.