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Reverend Henry Mitchell

Religious leader and religion professor Reverend Henry Mitchell was born in 1919, in Columbus, Ohio to Orlando and Bertha Mitchell. He received his B.A. degree from Lincoln University and went on to attend Union Theological Seminary, from which he received his B.D. and M.Div. degrees. After graduation, Mitchell was hired as pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Fresno, California and later moved to the Cavalry Baptist Church in Santa Monica, California. He also earned his Th.D. degree from Claremont School of Theology and his M.A. in linguistics from California State University.

In 1969, Mitchell became the first Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Black Church Studies at the consortium of Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Bex Ley Hall, and Crozer Theological Seminary. He also served as professor of religion and Pan African Studies at California State University and academic dean and professor of history and homiletics at Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. In 1988, Mitchell and his wife, the Reverend Doctor Ella Pearson Mitchell, began team-teaching as visiting professors of homiletics at the Interdenominational Theological Center. They became well known for their team-teaching and preaching style, where they would speak to their audience in dialogue with each other.

Mitchell served as the founding director of the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies and has written a book on the history of the African American church called Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years . In addition, Mitchell has also written Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art , a history of African American preaching styles, Fire in The Well , a collections of sermons Mitchell and his wife have given, and Together For Good: Lessons From Fifty-Five Years of Marriage , Mitchell and his wife’s joint autobiography. He has also co-authored the book Preaching for Black Self-Esteem .

Mitchell has been awarded an honorary D.D. degree by the American Baptist Seminary of the West and an honorary L.H.D. degree by Lincoln University. He and his wife are also the recipients of the 2008 Union Theological Seminary Trailblazer Award.

Henry Mitchell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 16, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.084

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/16/2010

Last Name

Mitchell

Marital Status

Married

Schools

Lincoln University

East High School

Eastwood School

East Pilgrim Elementary School

The Ohio State University

California State University, Fresno

Claremont School of Theology

Union Theological Seminary

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Henry

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

MIT11

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Any

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

9/10/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Religion professor and religious leader Reverend Henry Mitchell (1919 - ) held positions as a professor both of religion and African American history, including the first Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Black Church Studies at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School. He also pastored the Second Baptist Church in Fresno, California and the Cavalry Baptist Church in Santa Monica.

Employment

North Carolina Central University

Northern California Baptist Convention

Second Baptist Church

Calvary Baptist Church

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies

Interdenominational Theological Center

Proctor School of Theology

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Henry Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his paternal great-grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his father's occupation and personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his childhood home in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his experiences of school segregation in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls the Eastwood School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers singing in the choir at the Second Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about the clothing styles of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers Pilgrim Junior High in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his preparation for college

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his graduation from East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his experiences during the Great Depression

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his calling to the ministry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls working at the Truck Tractor Equipment Company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his exemption from the draft

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls leaving The Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers enrolling at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his summer work experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his activities at Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his time at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his preparation for seminary

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about the history of the Baptist denomination

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his transition to the Union Theological Seminary in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his first year at the Union Theological Seminary

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his decision to propose to his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his wife's ordination as a minister

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his start as an expert on the black church

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about African American religious symbolism

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell reflects upon his philosophy of religion

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls becoming the dean of the chapel at the North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes the impact of World War II on his brothers

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his time as dean of the chapel at the North Carolina College for Negroes

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers the birth of his first child

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his children

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls working as a field secretary of the Northern California Baptist Association

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his graduate education

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls the tragic deaths of his family members

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his role in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers the adoption of his son

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls pastoring the Second Baptist Church in Fresno, California

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers the assassinations of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers pastoring the Calvary Baptist Church in Santa Monica, California

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls his Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Professorship of Black Church Studies

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his career in academia

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell recalls founding the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies in La Verne, California

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his publications

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Reverend Henry Mitchell reflects upon the success of his marriage

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his collaborations with his wife

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about the history of the black church, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Reverend Henry Mitchell the history of the black church, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Reverend Henry Mitchell talks about his trips to Africa

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Reverend Henry Mitchell reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Reverend Henry Mitchell reflects upon the role of women in the black church

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Reverend Henry Mitchell narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

4$3

DATitle
Reverend Henry Mitchell remembers his calling to the ministry
Reverend Henry Mitchell describes his role in the Civil Rights Movement
Transcript
Now, you talked a little bit about religion. But I want you to tell me more about your church [Second Baptist Church, Columbus, Ohio] and your affiliation, besides the choir. When did you, when did you get the call?$$I got the call after I finished high school [East High School, Columbus, Ohio]. I was working on a job that was made for me, 'cause they didn't need me in that place [Truck Tractor Equipment Company]. But the fellow that was the head Negro in charge was a good friend of my dad [Orlando Mitchell]. My dad had been very helpful to this fellow when he almost died in an auto accident. They were in the Mat- Ma- Masonic lodge together, and he was the foreman. So my dad went to him one day and said, "My boy is finishing high school. Is there any possible chance you'd give him a job?" Said, "I don't have a job, but I'll make him a job." The result was that at points on the job where I was making twenty-five cents an hour, twelve dollars a week, he would have to put me somewhere to make it look like I was really needed, 'cause otherwise, the boss would have made him fire me. "You don't need that little boy." So, I handled freight that I shouldn't have handled. And I still got problems from that. And he would put me up in a warehouse assembling farm implements have been shipped in in pieces before he needed them. Usually, he would assemble whatever the harvester was or something like that. He would assemble it after he needed it. But he put me up there to put some stuff in stock already assembled. Well, I'm up here looking busy, pushing a ratchet wrench, putting spade lugs on a real big tractor wheel, and didn't take any brains at all, and my mind was floating all the time, they call free association. And one day it dawned on me, every time my mind floats I wind up in a church somewhere, in a pulpit somewhere, either in Africa or in the United States or wherever. And finally, it dawned on me that I was being called. And well, I did, I admired both of my grandpas [Henry Estis and Henry Mitchell] who were Baptist preachers, but I didn't admire them enough to want to join them. But it got on me so bad I couldn't sleep, so finally I yielded to the call. I to- I tried to keep it a secret 'cause people have been calling, telling me I was preacher all along. My--I don't know how this happened, but I, I could recite chapters from the Bible, and I don't even know when I memorized them. When I couldn't read, I could relate that: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so--," [John 14:1-2] when I did my first funeral, after I became a professional pastor, I'm walking down the aisle reciting this stuff in front of the coffin as it rolls down the aisle. And you would have thought I had been pastoring, 'cause I wasn't reading any--(laughter); I was just reciting. But it was because I've known when I couldn't read I could recite that stuff.$$And, and that was just from going to church and hear- hearing it over and over again, you think?$$I haven't any idea how I got it. It must have been something like that, because I don't remember my parents sitting down telling me, "Now memorize this or memorize that."$$But you did go to Sunday school.$$Oh yeah. I memorized the books of the Bible and all that sort of stuff.$In the 1950s--we're going into the 19--the end of the 1950s, 1956. This is when civil rights is starting to--$$Yeah.$$--come to the forefront. Were you involved in civil rights? In, in what way?$$I was involved in all kinds of ways. We had one demonstration with har- Martin King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] right there in Fresno [California].$$Tell me about that.$$I have pictures of it in the stuff that I've got some pictures of. In Fresno I was able to clear up police brutality and stuff, got them to deal with blacks, black justly and e- even made them hire blacks, where they didn't plan to and so forth. I almost got to be ordered to the--elected to the school board, but I had found the school board was wrong on some things. So all the teachers organized the whole--that's a big bunch of people against me because I had caught the school board. And the school board really didn't want me to be on the board 'cause I had caught them wrong too many times.$$Okay. Now, were you involved in the National Baptist Convention [National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.]?$$Yeah.$$Can you tell me what the involvement of the National Baptist Convention was to the, in this--I guess there was some kind of little--a rift between civil rights or their views on civil rights in the National Baptist Convention. Do you know about that, or do you have an opinion about that?$$Well, we had some strange things happen. For one thing, Martin Luther King should have been president of the Congress of Christian Education. And the president had a power base in Mississippi and places like that. And they thought of Martin too radical, and they moved him--he was elected president of the congress, and the president stopped him, did not rec- it was, it was a, a, a technical thing where the presidency or the, the, the, the, the mother convention had to approve the officers elected by the congress. And the congress elected Martin King as president, and the president re- had the convention to deny the usual form of approval. And they picked a new president for the congress because they thought was, that Martin King was too, too radical, stupid stuff like that. So the president was unfortunately the sort of person who, who was almost satisfied with things like they were. And he said just let us, let us fix it with the vote. We don't have to have all of these demonstrations and stuff.$$All right.$$I was quite active in the city. I was too far out to be terribly importantly involved in nationally. But I did have a demonstration in San--in Fresno, in which Martin King did came and--did come, and take part.