Juanita Jackson Mitchell (1913-1992)
MSA SC 3520-2306
Born Juanita Elizabeth Jackson on January 2, 1913 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Daughter of Kieffer Albert Jackson and Dr. Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson (1889-1975). Attended Frederick Douglass High School; Morgan State College; The University of Pennsylvania, B.S. in education, cum laude, 1931, and M.A. in sociology, 1935; University of Maryland School of Law, LL.B., 1950. Admitted to the Maryland bar, 1950. Married Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. (1911-1984) on September 7, 1938 at Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Church by W. A. C. Hughes; four sons Clarence Mitchell III, Michael Bowen, Keiffer Jackson, and George Davis. Resided at 1324 Druid Avenue, Baltimore. Died in Baltimore of a heart attack and stroke on July 7 or 8, 1992.
Growing up in Baltimore, Juanita Jackson Mitchell faced the various Jim Crow laws of the South. She was the second born of four children. Her siblings were Virginia, the oldest, Marion, and Bowen Kieffer. Mitchell along with her sisters and brother could not attend the most prominent Baltimore City schools such as Baltimore City College, Western Female High, or Polytechnic High. There were only only two high schools blacks could attend, Douglass High and Booker T. Washington Junior High. Housing and public parks were also segregated. It was impossible for Juanita Jackson Mitchell not to notice the rigidness of her segregated city.
Juanita Jackson Mitchell was described as the "matriarch of one of Baltimore's oldest civil rights families." (The Baltimore Afro-American, 1 July 1992). She and one of her sisters lived with an aunt and uncle while she attended The University of Pennsylvania and her sister attended The Philadelphia Museum and School of Art. This was because The University of Maryland and The Maryland Art Institute would not accept blacks. However, Juanita Jackson Mitchell was the first black woman to attend the University of Maryland School of Law and the first black woman to practice law in Maryland. In the early 1930s, Mitchell taught in the Baltimore public school system. During her time as a Baltimore public school vocational teacher, Mitchell traveled during the summers for her church throughout the country representing the Bureau of Negro Work and The Department of Young People's Work. While on these tours she taught and gave lectures on race relations. She also serviced the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and belonged to the American Sociological Society and the National Committee of One Hundred of Methodist Federation for Society.
In 1931, Mitchell co-founded the Baltimore Citywide Young People's Forum, a civil rights organization that also helped find jobs for blacks during the Depression. She had early experience with the civil rights campaign, leading a successful demonstration to desegregate the dorms of The University of Pennsylvania while attending there. She became special assistant to NAACP National Secretary Walter White in 1936 and was the first national director of the organization's youth and college division. Her involvement with the NAACP began in the year 1932. In December of 1932 Juanita began the effort to revive the dying Baltimore branch of the NAACP. Mitchell along with Walter White began to lay the foundation for a youth wing of the Baltimore branch, which would be named, "NAACP Boosters". This was a successful attempt to bring life to the inactive branch through the involvement of large numbers of youth from the Baltimore communities. One event in particular that led to the mobilization of the Baltimore branch was a fund raiser led to appeal an injunction by storekeepers to stop picketing in front of businesses targeted for prohibiting the hiring black employees. Led by Mitchell, this campaign collected over $1, 200 needed to pursue the issue in court.
In 1942, she directed a march on Annapolis with 2,000 citizens to demand repeal of Maryland's "Jim Crow" laws. That year she also directed the first city-wide "Register and Vote" campaign that resulted in 11,000 new voter registrations on the books. In 1958, she directed the NAACP's "Register to Vote" campaign which resulted in over 20,000 new registrations.Mitchell entered the law profession upon admission to the bar in 1950. She was admitted to practice law before the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and the U.S. Supreme Court. As a civil rights lawyer, she fought discrimination in the courts and served as counsel in suits to eliminate segregation in municipal recreation facilities, restaurants and public schools in Baltimore City and throughout Maryland. Her legal battles while working as legal counsel for the NAACP also integrated city agencies by forcing them to hire black police officers, social workers, librarians, and teachers. In 1963, she also aided her children in the picketing of C & P Telephone Company for six months because they would not hire black installers, repairpersons, and linemen. They also picketed the Gas and Electric Company for not hiring black meter readers.
Mitchell is credited with filing the suits that made Maryland the first southern state to desegregate its school system after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Along with Thurgood Marshall and two other black attorneys representing the NAACP, Mitchell filed a law suit that led to the acceptance of two black teenagers into the Baltimore City School, Mergenthaler (Mervo) School of Printing. She also filed a suit that integrated Baltimore's Western High School. Among the other cases for which she was counsel was Robert Mack Bell v. Maryland that resulted from the attempts of students to desegregate Maryland's restaurants (click here to read about the case), and the "Veney Raid" cases which ended mass searches of private homes without warrants. Also during the early 1950's, Mitchell filed laws suits which led to the desegregation of Sandy Point State Park, Fort Smallwood Municipal Park Beach, and Baltimore City swimming pools. Three years after her victory with Sandy Point State Park the Supreme Court upheld a decision that segregation of state facilities was unconstitutional. This set another legal precedent in the United States. This decision extended the 14th amendment to state beaches and other recreational facilities.
Mitchell was an active member of the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, where she frequently spoke and taught on race relations and civil rights issues. In 1934 she was elected vice president of the newly organized National Council of Methodist Youth. Said Juanita, "My husband and I had an almost total commitment to the struggle for freedom. We were gone all the time, either at rallies or for court cases. We would meet at church meetings to organize the people. We had a sense of urgency." (Maryland State Archives SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Biographical Series), Juanita Jackson Mitchell file, MSA SC 3520-2306, 2/11/11/38.) She also was thankful to her four sons who also committed themselves to the movement.
In 1940 Mitchell served as a member of the White House Conference on Children, and was a member of the White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights in 1966. From 1965 to 1967 she was co-chair of the Mayor's Task Force Committee on Police Community Relations. From 1968 to 1969 she was chair of the Model Cities Education Committee. In 1970 she co-founded the Freedom House. In 1985 she was elected to the first Baltimore City Hall of Fame for Women by the Baltimore City Commission for Women and given the Everett J. Waring Honor by the Law Society of Howard County. In 1987 she joined her mother Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson with her induction into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. She was honored in 1990 by the Maryland Women's Bar Association with their first and only honorary membership and in 1991 the Juanita Jackson Mitchell Schlorship Fund was created by the Monumental City Bar Association.
to Juanita Jackson Mitchell's Introductory Page
Updated: October 2001, by Dana Z. Sutton
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