H. L. Mitchell Collection
Scope and Contents of the Collection
H.L. Mitchell Collection, 1970-1981, consists of correspondence, book reviews, clippings, flyers, speeches, and other materials relating to H.L. Mitchell and the Southern Tenant Farmers Association.
Restrictions on Access
Collection is open for research use.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Georgia State University is the owner of the physical collection and makes reproductions available for research, subject to the copyright law of the United States and item condition. Georgia State University may or may not own the rights to materials in the collection. It is the researcher's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and obtain permission from the copyright holder before publication, reproduction, or display of the materials beyond what is reasonable under copyright law. Researchers may quote selections from the collection under the fair use provision of copyright law.
Biography of H.L. Mitchell
Harry Leland Mitchell was a lifelong union activist and co-founder of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) in eastern Arkansas, one of the first integrated labor unions in the United States. The STFU was unique among unions in “encouraging members to leave,” helping them find a life outside tenant farming.
H. L. Mitchell was born on June 14, 1906, to Maude Ella Stanfield and James Young Mitchell, a tenant farmer and sometime preacher in Halls, Tennessee. Mitchell attended school sporadically while working various jobs to help support his family. He sharecropped, worked in a clothing store, and ran a one-pump gas station. He finally graduated from Halls High School in 1925.
He married Lyndell “Dell” Carmack on December 26, 1926, settling on the Carmack farm to sharecrop while his wife taught school. She earned $60 a month teaching school, and Mitchell netted $185 from sharecropping in 1927. He was sharecropping on land owned by his in-laws, with earnings higher than the average sharecropper, who generally ended a growing season owing money to planters (landlords) for food, seed, and other necessities. His brief sharecropping experience led the ever–socially conscious Mitchell to consider the merits of the Socialist Party set forth in the “Little Blue Books” published by E. Haldeman-Julius of Girard, Kansas.
Eleven white and seven black men formed the STFU in July 1934 to be their voice. Mitchell was one of the co-founders, serving as executive secretary for eight years. The STFU was renamed the National Farm Labor Union, and its offices moved to Washington DC from Memphis in 1948. Mitchell’s wife, Lyndell, chose not to go to Washington, so they amicably divorced, with Mitchell marrying Dorothy Dowe, another STFU officer, in 1951.
Mitchell organized other unions, including the Amalgamated Meat Cutters (part of the AFL-CIO), and the National Agricultural Workers Union. He remained active in labor organizations, including the historic STFU, until his death on August 1, 1989, in Montgomery, Alabama.
0.5 Linear Feet (in 8 folders)
Language of Materials
H.L. Mitchell Collection, 1970-1981, consists of correspondence, book reviews, clippings, flyers, speeches, and other materials relating to H.L. Mitchell and the Southern Tenant Farmers Association. Harry Leland Mitchell was a lifelong union activist and co-founder of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) in eastern Arkansas, one of the first integrated labor unions in the United States. The STFU was unique among unions in “encouraging members to leave,” helping them find a life outside tenant farming.
The files in the collection are organized by accession. The collection came in five separate accessions. Each accession has been kept together.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by H.L. Mitchell in multiple accessions: September 19, 1972 (L1972-85), January 1, 1974 (L1974-02), May 26, 1975 (L1975-20) August 17, 1976 (L1976-37), July 6, 1982 (L1982-13). Three other accessions (L1974-26, L1974-50, L1975-06) consisted of published mongraphs that have been added to the department book collection.
During processing various materials were separated to other Southern Labor Archives Printed Collections. For pamphlets, see the Southern Labor Archives Pamphlet Collection finding aid (note that this collection has been weeded over time). For proceedings consult archivist.
Separated to the Southern Labor Archives Proceedings Collection
- Leon B. Schachter Testimonial, 1971 (24 leaves)
- Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America proceedings, 1960-1964
Separated to the Southern Labor Archives Pamphlet Collection
- 18 pamphlets regarding farm workers, civil rights, organizing, plantation workers, nursing and union history
- 3 pamphlets concerning the history of farm workers and rural history
Processed by F.P. Mullins and Robert Dinwiddie at the file level (L1972-85), E.L.E. Mize at the file level (L1974-02), Faye Gamel (L1975-24), Alice Gernazian (L1976-37), and Robert Dinwiddie (L1982-13) at the file level. Earlier finding aids combined.
- H. L. Mitchell:
- A Guide to his Collection at Georgia State University Library
- Georgia State University Library
- August 2018
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description