On this day in Alabama history: Congress’ first black Democrat was born

On this day in Alabama history: Congress’ first black Democrat was born
"Birds-eye view" of the Tuskegee Institute, 1907. (Photograph by A.P. Bedou, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

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.

Related Stories