Title: Oral History Interview with Broadus Mitchell, August 14 and 15, 1977. Interview B-0024.
Interviewer: Frederickson, Mary
Interviewee: Mitchell, Broadus
Subjects: Virginia--Race relations Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
Abstract: John Broadus Mitchell was born in Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1892 into a family with roots in religion and education. Mitchell describes his upbringing and the strong influence of both his parents. Mitchell discusses his father's education and career as a professor of history, his parents' liberal political leanings, and their community involvement. Mitchell also describes his perceptions of race while growing up in Kentucky, Virginia, and South Carolina. Mitchell became an economic historian; he describes in detail how the textile industry shifted its base of power from New England to the southern states in the late nineteenth century, and he talks at length about the impact of industrialization on southern communities. Mitchell became particularly interested in the politics of labor and race. He explains the purposes of labor education programs—notably the Summer School for Women Workers at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and the Southern Summer School for Women Workers in North Carolina—and his participation in those endeavors. In the 1920s, Mitchell moved to Baltimore to teach at Johns Hopkins University. In the 1930s, he came under the administration's scrutiny when he publicly spoke out about a lynching in Salisbury, Maryland, advocated for the admittance of an African American graduate student to the university, and began to embrace socialist politics. He resigned in 1939. During the years of World War II, he worked briefly at Occidental College and New York University before finding a tenured position in the economics department at Rutgers University. Mitchell continued to be involved in leftist politics during the 1940s, and in the 1950s he participated in a movement at Rutgers to combat McCarthyism in academia. Throughout this interview, Mitchell emphasizes the influence of his upbringing on his political beliefs, and he relates his own experiences to those of his siblings who also were engaged in activism related to labor and race. Towards the end of the interview, Mitchell's wife, Louise, joins the interview and discusses her career in teaching, her own community involvement, and her efforts to balance the demands of work and family.