“Clarence Mitchell, Jr., for decades waged in the halls of Congress a stubborn, resourceful and historic campaign for social justice. The integrity of this ‘101st senator’ earned him the respect of friends and adversaries alike. His brilliant advocacy helped translate into law the protests and aspirations of millions consigned for too long to second-class citizenship. The hard-won fruits of his labors have made America a better and stronger nation.”
President Jimmy Carter, Citation on the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented June 9, 1980
“The Papers of Clarence Mitchell, Jr. is a primary source and analytical goldmine for scholars of civil rights and labor struggles in the twentieth-century United States…. Well organized, engagingly written, and edited with cogent commentary, these two volumes (III & IV) take us inside Mitchell’s activist office and let us hear his own words.”
The Journal of Southern History
Born in Baltimore in 1911, Clarence Mitchell Jr. led the struggle for passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
Volumes I (1942–1943) and II (1944–1946) of The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr., edited and annotated by Denton L. Watson, document the creation of the Fair Employment Practice Committee and its struggles to end discrimination in the war industries under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr.
Mitchell launched his career with the NAACP as a messianic advocate for the passage of civil rights laws by first creating programs for eliminating discriminatory employment practices in industry, labor unions, and the government. His subsequent focus included the NAACP’s struggles to end segregation in the armed services and to eliminate Jim Crow in navy yards, schools on military posts, veterans hospitals, atomic energy installations, government restaurants, and many other federal establishments.
Those struggles are carefully documented in the monthly and annual reports of the NAACP Labor Department and the NAACP Washington Bureau from 1946 to 1950 and from 1951 to 1954, which comprise companion volumes III and IV of The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. The volumes are extensively supported by other documents in the appendix from the NAACP’s archives.
Volumes III and IV, furthermore, document the manner in which the NAACP utilized the newly created Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a broad-based coalition of civil rights, civic, fraternal, labor, and religious organizations, in conjunction with the organization’s branches, as its political fulcrum in implementing its developing legislative program in Congress. These volumes are an invaluable reference in tracing the NAACP’s multifaceted struggle under Mitchell’s leadership for passage of the civil rights laws.
Clarence Mitchell Jr. was a civil rights activist and a chief lobbyist for the NAACP.
Denton L. Watson, formerly director of public relations for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is an associate professor at SUNY College at Old Westbury. He is author of Lion in the Lobby, Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for the Passage of Civil Rights Laws and editor of The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr.
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