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Oral History Interview with Broadus Mitchell, August 14 and 15, 1977. Interview B-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • 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.
  • Living with mother and grandmother when father was away at school
  • Parents' roles in the family
  • Race relations from a child's perspective near the turn of the twentieth century
  • Segregation and service jobs for African Americans
  • Brutal lynching and public reactions in Salisbury, Maryland, in 1935
  • Establishment of the cotton textile industry in the South
  • Race and gender in the workplace in cotton textile mills
  • Comparing the Bryn Mawr School for Women Workers and the Southern Summer School for Women Workers
  • The Socialist Party in Maryland during the 1930s
  • Advocating for the admission of an African American graduate student to Johns Hopkins University
  • Balancing the demands of work and family
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Virginia--Race relations
  • Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.