Dr. Billington on March 7 announced an agreement to acquire the papers of the Mitchell family of civil rights activists.
"The Mitchell papers are believed to be the most important unprocessed archive on the modern civil rights era. The acquisition of these materials will be a great advantage to scholars and researchers because it makes the Library virtually unparalleled for the study of the civil rights movement in the 20th century," said Dr. Billington.
The collection chronicles the lives of Clarence M. Mitchell Jr.; his wife, Juanita Jackson Mitchell; her mother, Lillie M. Carroll Jackson; and other members of several generations of the Mitchell and Jackson families. The donors are the Mitchells' four sons: Clarence M. Mitchell III; Keiffer J. Mitchell, M.D.; Michael B. Mitchell; and George D. Mitchell.
The history of the Mitchell family is inextricably linked with the history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the civil rights struggle in the state of Maryland and the national civil rights movement.
Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. (1911-1984) served as the director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the association's chief lobbyist from 1950 to 1979. Mitchell waged a tireless campaign on Capitol Hill to secure the passage of a comprehensive series of civil rights laws: 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. His invincible determination won him the accolade of "101st U.S. Senator."
An avowed "freedom fighter," Juanita Jackson Mitchell (1913-1992) served as the first national youth director of the NAACP (1935-1938) and became the first African American woman to practice law in Maryland (1950). She later succeeded her mother as president of the NAACP Baltimore branch and president of the state conference of NAACP branches.
Lillie M. Carroll Jackson (1889-1975) presided over the NAACP Baltimore branch for 35 years (1935-1970). Under her leadership, the Baltimore branch initiated history-making legal cases that challenged the constitutionality of segregation in education, employment and public accommodations.
Totaling an estimated 250,000 items, the Mitchell family papers include correspondence, notebooks, legal files, NAACP records, scrapbooks, photographs, films, audio tapes and newspapers. A portion of the papers has already been sent to the Library. It is expected that the remainder will be transferred by early summer. The Library plans to seek a grant to support the processing of the collection.
The Mitchell family papers relate to other collections already in the Library's Manuscript Division. Chief among these are the records of the NAACP, NAACP Washington Bureau, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Urban League, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the personal papers of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and civil rights attorney Joseph Rauh.