Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Broadus Mitchell, August 14 and 15, 1977. Interview B-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Socialist Party in Maryland during the 1930s

Mitchell describes his involvement with the Socialist Party in Maryland during the 1930s and his run for state office on the party ticket. In particular, Mitchell describes his socialism along with that of Elisabeth Gilman, a colleague of his from his tenure at John Hopkins University. During the 1930s, Gilman and Mitchell both became actively involved in labor activism out of their concern for the conditions facing mine workers in Maryland. Around 1935, they ran together for state office, Mitchell running for Governor and Gilman running for Treasurer. Although they were defeated, they garnered a strong showing of voter support for the Socialist Party. In addition to labor activism, Mitchell links support of the Socialist Party to dissatisfaction with the lack of political support for ending racial violence.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Broadus Mitchell, August 14 and 15, 1977. Interview B-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

And then Elisabeth became a socialist as a further development of her activities, and she ran for public office on the Socialist ticket. One she ran for Mayor of Baltimore and another time for maybe Lieutenant Governor of Maryland; I've forgotten what it was. I had gone to many meetings in Elisabeth's drawing room, because she was organizing all kinds of protests and proposals A typical one was a project of getting people to deposit food in the porch of an Episcopal church, the food to be sent to striking miners in western Maryland. They were living in tents; it was winter; and of course they were in need of everything. Elisabeth was an Episcopalian in good standing of one of the chief Episcopal churches in Baltimore, of which Dr. Kinsolving was the rector. So Elisabeth got the idea that a sign should be put up on the porch of the church saying, "Leave here barrels of apples or flour or canned goods or whatever," and she persuaded the President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to give a car to send the provisions out to the miners. She knew everybody, you see, and her family connection opened every door to her. So she deputed me to go to see Mr. Kinsolving and ask whether it would be all right to put up the sign and have the food left in the church porch. There was a little colonnade and shelter. So I went to see him in the beautiful rectory of the church, but he was hostile and he said that he thought the workers had become too uppity and that his wife went to see her dressmaker and was surprised to find a working woman there who was also ordering custom-made clothes. I mean it was an ignorant kind of a response. His son was afterwards for a short time in some of my undergraduate classes at Hopkins, and he became a Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts. I think he was the rector of Trinity Church in Boston afterwards. His father was a man of position and dignity, a fine-looking man, but he really didn't know what this was about. In spite of him, maybe with appeal to his vestry or something, it was done, and I think the food was sent out. And Elisabeth went out to visit the miners in their tent colony in this strike. And then in 1935 or something like that, the Socialist Party thought they would run candidates in the state election when the candidate of the Democratic Party was Albert Ritchie, the Governor who had failed so woefully in his duty in the instance of lynchings on the Eastern Shore, and the Republican candidate was a Mr. Nice, not an aristocrat like Ritchie but a substantial man with a great following. And they held a Socialist convention, a little convention at Frederick, I think, and asked me if I would run as Governor. Elisabeth was going to run as Treasurer or something. So we went and made a campaign over the state everywhere except on the Eastern Shore, where by that time [laughter] I might have been lynched myself if I had gone. But we went particularly to the industrial districts and to western Maryland, the mining camps. Elisabeth was not a good public speaker. She, however, tried to improve her delivery by taking lessons in articulation. But she had a high-pitched voice. She was a nervous woman, jerky, and sentences sort of refused to be finished. She would ejaculate things. She tried to improve herself, and she did. She spoke more slowly, but it was very hard for her to address a crowd such as the crowds that we had, which were on the street corners with the noise of traffic and all that kind of thing that we had to contend with. But we had some meetings in halls and towns and all. Local socialists would arrange in advance, and we had larger attendance in Baltimore in meeting halls, We got twice as many votes as the Socialists had ever had before, but Mr. Nice, the Republican, was elected. Ritchie had made himself very unpopular by his lack of prosecution of these lynchers.