Arthur Wergs Mitchell
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Arthur Wergs Mitchell (December 22, 1883 – May 9, 1968) was a U.S. Representative from Illinois. For his entire congressional career from 1935 to 1943, he was the only African American in Congress. Mitchell was the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat -- he replaced Oscar De Priest, a Republican.
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 S. De Priest|
|Succeeded by||William L. Dawson|
|Born||December 22, 1883|
|Died||May 9, 1968 (aged 84)|
|Political party||Republican (Until 1932) Democrat (After 1932)|
|Spouse(s)||Eula Mae King (m. January 11, 1905 - d. 1910) 1 Son
Annie H. Mitchell (married ca. 1919 - d. March 7, 1947)Clara D. Smith (m. March 20, 1948 - his death May 9, 1968)
Mitchell was born to Taylor Mitchell & 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. 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.
- 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". history.house.gov. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
- 313 U.S. 80 (1941)
- 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.
- "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.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
Oscar S. De Priest
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st congressional district
William L. Dawson