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Main > Politics & Religion > Arthur Wergs Mitchell

Arthur Wergs Mitchell (December 22, 1883 - May 9, 1968) was a U.S. Representative from Illinois. Mitchell was the first African American to be elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat.

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 after finding that his views on issues aligned himself closer to the Democrats.

Mitchell was elected to the House of Representatives in 1934, defeating African American congressman Oscar De Priest. 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, which ruled that the railroad violated the Interstate Commerce Act. He voluntarily chose not to seek re-election in 1942. He moved to Virginia and farmed twelve acres of property.

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