December 22, 1883
U.S. Rep. Arthur Wergs Mitchell, the first black member of Congress to serve as a Democrat, was born in Roanoke. Mitchell studied a year each at the Tuskegee Institute and the Snow Hill Institute in Wilcox County before opening several schools for African-Americans in the Black Belt. Mitchell’s schools, however, all quickly closed or burned, and he fled the state to avoid several lawsuits for defrauding poor blacks. As a U.S. representative from Chicago, he proved valuable to his party by recruiting blacks away from the Republican Party as he promoted the idea that African-Americans in the South were more fortunate than those in the North.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.