Statement of Significance & Importance

The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. is primarily drawn from the only available historical archive that provides a comprehensive documentation of the struggle for passage of the civil rights laws, and thus fulfillment of a goal of the Niagara Movement. The ten-volume documentary edition is composed of the weekly, monthly and annual reports Mitchell prepared when he was, from 1942 to 1946, associate director of field operations, and then director of field operations at the Fair Employment Practice Committee; from 1946 to 1950, NAACP labor secretary; and, from 1950 to 1978, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, and legislative chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights coalition, which was the NAACP’s political fulcrum in Washington. To fully implement its mission, the project is establishing a collaborative arrangement with the Center for Digital Editing and the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia under which programs and syllabi will be developed for extending the unique educational benefits of the collection to the classroom at all levels of study.

The reports are one of six categories of the NAACP Washington Bureau collection Mitchell prepared. The others -- congressional testimonies and statements, letters and telegrams, memoranda, speeches, scholarly articles and newspaper columns – are used in the annotation. The World War II period of the collection (1942-1946), and that immediately following (1947-1950) affirm the social and political forces that pushed the NAACP to establish a political and legislative program to complement its legal program with the creation of the bureau in 1942. This step consolidated and expanded the NAACP’s work in Congress and the Executive Branch. In sum, The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. encompasses the principal political and historical period, when, in conjunction with its legal program, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was the flagship of the civil rights movement.

The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. project is sponsored by SUNY College at Old Westbury and funded by, in addition to the National Historical Publicans and Records Commission, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.

The NAACP Washington Bureau collection, which constitutes The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr., edition, documents the contributions of eight presidents to the establishment and enforcement of a national civil rights program. The bulk of the collection, which is composed of approximately 45,000 documents covering about 100 feet of shelf space, is at the Library of Congress. It shows how Mitchell developed the evolutionary strategy to preserve the principle of presidential leadership in civil rights established during World War II that was essential for winning passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the first such measure in 82 years, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, as a strengthening provision for the 1964 Act, and adoption of enforcement policies by the executive branch.

The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. dramatizes the sharp differences in strategies between the NAACP, which worked inside the government, and the younger organizations whose operations were concentrated in the South, and worked outside the government, both to end second class citizenship of African Americans. Along with the NAACP’s legal collection, the NAACP Washington Bureau collection show the extent to which Mitchell and the organization’s other leaders were constitutional humanists, while the younger leaders utilizing nonviolent tactics in the South were moral humanists. The collection is thus essential for enhancing understanding of the comprehensive elements of the struggle that were essential to move the Legislative and Executive Branches of Government to achieve the modern civil rights revolution through passage of related laws and adoption of constructive national policies. Mitchell regarded his getting the Legislative and Executive Branches to join the Judicial Branch in establishing those constructive policies as his major contribution to the struggle.