Arthur Wergs Mitchell

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Arthur W. Mitchell
Arthur W. Mitchell.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1943
Preceded by Oscar S. De Priest
Succeeded by William L. Dawson
Personal details
Born (1883-12-22)December 22, 1883
near Lafayette, Alabama
Died May 9, 1968(1968-05-09) (aged 84)
Petersburg, Virginia
Political party Republican (Until 1935) Democrat (After 1935)
Profession Lawyer Farmer

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.

Early life[edit]

Mitchell was born near 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 after finding that his views on issues aligned himself closer to the Democrats. He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and served as its 6th International President from 1926-1934.

Political career[edit]

Mitchell was elected to the House of Representatives in 1934, defeating African American congressman Oscar De Priest, who was a Republican. 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,[1] which ruled that the railroad violated the Interstate Commerce Act. He voluntarily chose not to seek re-election in 1942.

After Congress[edit]

He moved to Virginia and became a farmer, working twelve acres (49,000 m²) of property. He died at his home in Petersburg, Virginia, on May 9, 1968.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 313 U.S. 80 (1941)

External sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Oscar S. De Priest
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
William L. Dawson