Women of NAACP Youth and College: Juanita Jackson Mitchell
Posted on March 28, 2011 by Kirin Kennedy- Regional Field Fellow NAACP Youth and College Division
In honor of Women’s History Month and our 75th Anniversary, we celebrate the accomplishments of women leaders who were trailblazers in the NAACP Youth & College Division and young women today who continue to carry the torch of civil rights activism. These mothers and daughters of the Youth & College Division have broken racial, gender and age barriers and are deserving of both recognition and emulation for the work they accomplished over the years. During the next few weeks, the Youth & College Division will present information on seven dynamic women who represent the past and future youth activism of the NAACP.
Juanita Jackson Mitchell (1913-1992)
Founder, NAACP Youth & College Division
Juanita Jackson Mitchell, born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has been active throughout her life promoting human and civil rights. She received her early education in the Baltimore City Public Schools. Later, she attended the University of Pennsylvania when the color line prevented her study at Johns Hopkins University. She graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in education, and later received a Master of Arts in sociology. When the University of Maryland was finally required to open its law school to Blacks in the 1940's, Mitchell was among the first to attend. She graduated with a law degree in 1950. She was both the first Black woman to attend the Law School and the first Black woman to practice law in Maryland.
Mitchell taught in Baltimore high schools. She was special assistant to Walter White and was the National Youth Director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Committed to teaching and inspiring Maryland youth, Mitchell founded the Baltimore City-Wide Young People's Forum in 1931, and the NAACP Youth Movement in 1935. In 1942, she directed a march on Maryland's Capitol with 2,000 citizens as well as the first city-wide "Register and Vote" campaign. The campaign 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.
Over the years, Mitchell fought discrimination in the courts. She served as counsel in suits to eliminate segregation in municipal recreation facilities, restaurants and public schools in Baltimore City and other jurisdictions in Maryland. She also advocated the prevention of mass searches of private homes without warrants. The school desegregation suits, championed by Mitchell, made Maryland the first southern state to integrate its school system after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 1987.