Mitchell, John (1837–1921)

By: Paul M. Lucko

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

John Mitchell, politician from Burleson County, was born a slave in April 1837 in Tennessee. He arrived in Texas in 1846. He was a farmer, and his property holdings, valued at $3,750, made him the wealthiest black member of the Twelfth Legislature, which met in 1870. Mitchell represented Burleson, Brazos, and Milam counties in the Texas House of Representatives and sat on the Public Land Committee. He joined the Radical Republican Association, organized to uphold Governor Edmund J. Davis's vetoes of railroad-development bills during the Twelfth Legislature. Mitchell represented Burleson and Washington counties in the Fourteenth Legislature in 1873, when he was a member of the Penitentiary Committee. He was one of five black delegates elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1875. He ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives as a member of the Greenback party in 1878 but was defeated. Mitchell and his wife, Viney, had five children who survived to adulthood. Mitchell died on April 10, 1921, at his Burleson County farm.

Alwyn Barr, "Black Legislators of Reconstruction Texas," Civil War History 32 (December 1986). J. Mason Brewer, Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (Dallas: Mathis, 1935; 2d ed., Austin: Jenkins, 1970). Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868–1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paul M. Lucko, “Mitchell, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

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