Parren James Mitchell

Parren James Mitchell (Photo credit: Joseph Daniel Clipper; collection of the U.S. House of Representatives; photo in the public domain)

Parren James Mitchell (1922–2007), Democrat from Maryland, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 through 1987. He was the first African American Congressman from Maryland and the first Southern black to serve in Congress in the twentieth century. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, after high school he served as a U.S. Army officer during World War II. While in Italy during the war, he was wounded and received a Purple Heart. When he returned home, he studied at Morgan State University, graduating in 1950. When the University of Maryland denied him admission to study on the campus (instead setting up an off-campus program for him), he sued the university and ultimately gained admission, graduating in 1952 with a masters degree in sociology. While serving in the U.S. Congress, he helped form the Congressional Black Caucus, opposed the Vietnam War, and called for President Richard Nixon's impeachment. Much of his work and fiery oratory focused on empowering black people economically, working in Congress to get laws passed to benefit minority-owned businesses.

After Parren retired from the House of Representatives, he was quoted as saying, "If you believe in fighting racism, you make a commitment for the rest of your life. There's no getting off that train." Living up to his words, he continued to promote economic opportunities for minorities. He died in Baltimore in May 2007.

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