Mitchell, Arthur Wergs, 1883-1968

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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.

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."

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Stravinsky-Diaghilev Foundation research files, 1920-1989. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Records of the Army Staff, 1903 - 2009. Official Military Personnel Files, 1912 - 1998. Official Military Personnel File of Benjamin O. Davis National Archives at St. Louis
creatorOf Mitchell, Arthur Wergs, 1883-1968. Arthur W. Mitchell papers, 1898-1968 (bulk 1934-1942). Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Claude Barnett and the Associated Negro Press, 1976-1977 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Walter Terry papers, 1913-1982 The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.
referencedIn Harry S. Truman Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs. 1876 - 1959. Family Correspondence Files Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Caliver, Ambrose, 1894-1962. Ambrose Caliver collection, 1912-1938. John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library. Special Collections & Archives
creatorOf Buckler, Richard Thompson, 1865-1950. Richard T. Buckler and family papers, 1886-1957. Minnesota Historical Society Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Negro Exposition (1940 : Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Buckler, Richard Thompson, 1865-1950. person
associatedWith Caliver, Ambrose, 1894-1962. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Columbia University corporateBody
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (U.S.) corporateBody
sucessorOf De Priest, Oscar, 1871-1951. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Harvard University corporateBody
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
leaderOf Phi Beta Sigma corporateBody
associatedWith Stravinsky-Diaghilev Foundation. corporateBody
correspondedWith Terry, Walter person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Tuskegee Institute corporateBody
memberOf United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Supreme Court. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
District of Columbia DC US
Dinwiddie County VA US
Chicago IL US
West Butler AL US
Tuskegee AL US
New York City NY US
Chambers County AL US
African American legislators
African American politicians
African Americans
African Americans
Political campaigns
Election districts
Postal service employees
Segregation in transportation
Representatives, U.S. Congress
School administrators


Birth 1883-04-13

Death 1968-01-22






Ark ID: w6sj3gvm

SNAC ID: 22802802