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The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr., Volume V
The Struggle to Pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act, 1955–1958

By Clarence Mitchell Jr.
Edited by Denton L. Watson

“Clarence Mitchell, Jr., for decades waged in the halls of Congress a stubborn, resourceful and historic campaign for social justice. The integrity of this ‘101st senator’ earned him the respect of friends and adversaries alike. His brilliant advocacy helped translate into law the protests and aspirations of millions consigned for too long to second-class citizenship. The hard-won fruits of his labors have made America a better and stronger nation.”

citation on the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented June 9, 1980, by President Jimmy Carter

The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. is a primary source and analytical goldmine for scholars of civil rights and labor struggles in the twentieth-century United States…. Well organized, engagingly written, and edited with cogent commentary, these two volumes (III & IV) take us inside Mitchell’s activist office and let us hear his own words.”

Journal of Southern History

Volume V of The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. records the successful effort to pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act: the first federal civil rights legislation since 1875.

Prior to the US Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the NAACP had faced an impenetrable wall of opposition from southerners in Congress. Basing their assertions on the court’s 1896 “separate but equal” decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, legislators from the South maintained that their Jim Crow system was nondiscriminatory and thus constitutional. In their view, further civil rights laws were unnecessary. In ruling that legally mandated segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, the Brown decision demolished the southerners’ argument. Mitchell then launched the decisive stage of the struggle to pass modern civil rights laws.

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first comprehensive lobbying campaign by an organization dedicated to that purpose since Reconstruction. Coming on the heels of the Brown decision, the 1957 law was a turning point in the struggle to accord Black citizens full equality under the Constitution. The act’s passage, however, was nearly derailed in the Senate by southern opposition and Senator Strom Thurmond’s record-setting filibuster, which lasted more than twenty-four hours. Congress later weakened several provisions of the act but—crucially—it broke a psychological barrier to the legislative enactment of such measures.

The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr. is a detailed record of the NAACP leader’s success in bringing the legislative branch together with the judicial and executive branches to provide civil rights protections during the twentieth century.

Clarence Mitchell Jr. (1911–84) was a civil rights activist and, for nearly thirty years, a chief lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Nicknamed the “101st Senator,” he was instrumental to the successful passage of the most consequential US civil rights legislative acts of the 1950s and 1960s.   More info →

Denton L. Watson, formerly director of public relations for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is an associate professor at SUNY College at Old Westbury. He is author of Lion in the Lobby: Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for the Passage of Civil Rights Laws and editor of The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr.More info →

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Cover of The Papers of Clarence Mitchell Jr., Volume V

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Hardcover
978-0-8214-2459-9
Retail price: $80.00, S.
Release date: March 2022
9 illus. · 610 pages · 6.125 × 9¼ in.
Rights:  World

Electronic
978-0-8214-4745-1
Release date: March 2022
9 illus. · 610 pages
Rights:  World

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