The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr.

So legendary was Clarence Mitchell, Jr., as a civil rights lobbyist in Congress that he was popularly called the “101st senator.” He led the NAACP’s struggle for passage of the civil rights laws and adoption of constructive national policies for the protection of the civil rights of African Americans by the executive branch. This struggle was rooted in the egalitarian philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and shaped by reason and carefully documented factual evidence. The core documents pertaining to the legislative struggle, approximately 45,000 occupying 83.2 linear feet of shelf space, are in the NAACP Washington Bureau collection at the Library of Congress. They, as well as Mitchell’s personal papers held by his family and others that were collected by this author were used in the biography, Lion in the Lobby, Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for the Passage of Civil Rights Laws. It was first published by William Morrow and Company in 1990 and reissued by University Press of America in 2003. No comparable collection documenting the struggle for the civil rights laws exists in any other place. The papers document how the NAACP worked within the government to obtain passage of the civil rights laws. They provide the most detailed record of Mitchell’s success in getting the Legislative Branch to join the Judicial and Executive branches to provide protections for civil rights. The Papers of Clarence Mitchell, Jr., project is publishing the weekly, monthly and annual reports prepared by Mitchell from 1942 to 1978. The other five categories in his collection are his memoranda, letters and telegrams, congressional testimonies, speeches, and newspaper columns and scholarly articles.

The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. documents the contributions of eight presidents to the establishment and enforcement of a national civil rights program. They provide the foundation for assessing the contributions to the civil rights struggle of the armed services, the justice department and other federal agencies during their administrations. The papers document how “Desegregation by Presidential Order” was achieved (June 29, 1954 report). They show how Mitchell developed the evolutionary strategy in Congress for winning passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the first such measure in 82 years, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and the adoption of constructive national policies for enforcing those laws.

The documentary editing project is sponsored by SUNY College at Old Westbury and funded by the NHPRC