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Mitchell-Jackson Family | Amistad Research Center

Name: Mitchell-Jackson Family

Historical Note:

The Mitchell-Jackson family members were champions of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the twentieth century. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, the Mitchells and Jacksons worked against the injustices placed upon the African American community nationwide. Through public office, individual leadership and even art, the family worked to change the African American experience.

Parren Mitchell was the ninth child of Clarence Mitchell Sr. and Elsie Davis Mitchell. He served as the representative of Maryland's 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was known for fighting and protecting the rights of Black small business owners. In 1950 he filed suit to become University of Maryland's first Black graduate student. In 1960, Mitchell served as the executive director of Baltimore's Anti-Poverty Campaign. Mitchell also played a significant role in the implementation of Maryland's Public Accommodations Law through the Human Rights Commission. In 1970, he was elected Maryland's African American Congressman. At the end of his professional career, Parren Mitchell founded the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund. In addition to the degrees he earned through his formal education, Mitchell was also awarded 14 honorary degrees along with over 3,000 awards from various groups and businesses.

Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., nicknamed "the 101st U.S. Senator," was a fierce civil rights lobbyist throughout the mid-twentieth century. Born to Clarence Mitchell Sr. and Elsie Davis Mitchell and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Mitchell graduated from Lincoln University in 1932. In the 1940s, he held various offices ranging from Director of the Union League in St. Paul to the director of the Fair Employment Practices Committee. Clarence Mitchell Jr. is perhaps best known for his tenure as the director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP beginning in 1950 until his retirement in 1978. Mitchell received various awards for his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Most notably, in 1980 Mitchell was awarded the Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter.

In 1938, Clarence Mitchell Jr. married Juanita Jackson. Born in Arkansas in 1913, Juanita Jackson Mitchell attended Morgan College and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931. After receiving her BA of Law from University of Maryland Law School in 1930, Juanita Jackson Mitchell practiced law in the state of Maryland where she fought against segregation legislation. Her efforts resulted in the desegregation of various public places such as beaches and restaurants. Jackson Mitchell worked against Jim Crow laws outside the courtroom as well by organizing such activities as the first citywide voter registration campaign for the NAACP in 1942 in Baltimore and the Citizens March in Annapolis.

Clarence Jr. and Juanita Jackson had four sons: Clarence III, Keiffer Jackson, Michael, and George. Clarence Mitchell III, their eldest child, became Maryland's youngest state legislator at the age of twenty-two. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Clarence Mitchell III attended Morgan State University where he became a leader in the student sit-in demonstrations.  Along with Marion Barry, Julian Bond, and others, Mitchell co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960.

Keiffer Jackson Mitchell was an accredited physician in the Baltimore, Maryland area. Although not a professional activist, Keifer Mitchell worked to desegregate institutions through his work as a doctor. He was the first African American professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and one of the first African American doctors at the Greater Baltimore Medicine Center. Michael B. Mitchell graduated from Lincoln University and the University of Maryland Law School. George David Mitchell, became a property manager for the family's real estate enterprises.

Keiffer Albert Jackson was born on August 30, 1883, in Carrollton, Mississippi. After attending Alcorn College, Jackson became an exhibitor of religious and educational films across the country. Jackson's exhibitions stood in opposition to the popular films of the day that depicted African Americans in a negative light. Keiffer Jackson and his wife finally settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he became an active member of the local NAACP chapter as well as the Free and Accepted Prince Hall Masons.

Dr. Lillie Mae Carrol Jackson was born in Baltimore in 1889. The daughter of a minister, Dr. Lillie Jackson maintained a strong sense of religion throughout her years as a freedom fighter. Known in many circles as the Mother of the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Lillie is accredited with pioneering the non-violent resistance to segregation. Following successful boycott campaigns, such as the "Buy Where You Can Work" campaign, Dr. Jackson was elected president of the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP in 1931. As the president, she fought against the racial barriers in public education along with other public institutions. Additionally, Jackson fought for African American suffrage by holding voter registration campaigns.

Virginia Jackson Kiah was Dr. Jackson and Keiffer Albert Jackson's eldest child. Born in East St. Louis in June of 1911, Virginia Kiah would dedicate her life to expressing the African American experience through art. Kiah received a formal education as well, gaining degrees from such institutions as the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, University of Pennsylvania and NY International Art Student's League, where she studied portraiture. From 1929 to 1983, her work was exhibited in galleries, museums and shows across the state. Kiah was also the director of the L.M. Jackson Museum and the Director of Kiah Museum in Savannah. Along with her husband, Calvin Kiah, she lived in Savannah, Georgia, for most of her adult life.

Marion Downs was the third daughter of Mr. and Dr. Jackson and an accomplished concert pianist and singer. She was a graduate of Coppin State Teacher's College, Samuel Houston College, Julliard Institute along the Columbia University. Marion Downs was also a Fulbright fellow at the Milan Conservatory in Milan, Italy. Downs was married to Dr. Karl Downs, the first African American president of Samuel Huston College in Austin, Texas.

Sources: Mitchell-Jackson Family Papers
Note Author: Maggie Jones

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