Michael Gaynor
If Dr. Broadus Mitchell were watching the riots and looting following the George Floyd homicide
By Michael Gaynor
June 3, 2020

Dr. Mitchell would lament and condemn those "miscreants' who forsook "the orderly administration of justice" for "mob violence" and profit.

The tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd, apparently kneed to death by a Minneapolis police officer who will be prosecuted for second degree murder by the Minnesota Attorney General resulted in virtually unanimous disgust followed by outrage, protest, rioting and looting that spread around the country.

What would my favorite college professor, the late Dr. Broadus Mitchell, say about it?

It was my privilege to deliver the first eulogy at his memorial service and I was not asked to do that because Dr. Mitchell was a conservative Republican.

Dr. Mitchell's New York Times obituary (www.nytimes.com/1988/04/30/obituaries/broadus-mitchell-95-professor-historian-and-hamilton-authority.html) offered this succinct summary of Dr. Mitchell's life:

"Dr. Broadus Mitchell, an educator, historian and biographer of Alexander Hamilton, died.... He was 95 years old....

"Dr. Mitchell published works on the economic history of the South, including 'The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South' (1921), 'William Gregg, Factory Master of the Old South' (1928) and 'The Industrial Revolution in the South' (1930), with his brother, George Sinclair Mitchell, as co-author.

"He wrote or co-authored four textbooks on economics, as well as 'American Economic History' (1947) with his second wife, Louise Pearson....

"In 1962, Dr. Mitchell completed publication of a two-volume biography, 'Alexander Hamilton.' He later wrote four books on Hamilton's life and influence. In more recent years, Dr. Mitchell collaborated with his wife on 'A Biography of the Constitution of the United States' (1964) and 'The Price of Independence' (1976).

"Active in political affairs, he was former president of the Baltimore Urban League and chairman of the New Jersey Civil Liberties Committee. He was the Socialist candidate for governor of Maryland in 1934.

"Dr. Mitchell taught economics at Johns Hopkins from 1919 to 1939; Occidental College, 1939 to 1941; New York University, 1942 to 1944, and Rutgers, 1949 to 1958. He taught at the New College at Hofstra from 1958 to 1967.

"At Rutgers, he led a protest against the discharges of two faculty members for their political views during the McCarthy era. In 1938, he resigned from Johns Hopkins over the university's refusal to admit a black student to the graduate school. The student, Edward Lewis, was later head of the New York Urban League.

"Who else would have left a professorship at Johns Hopkins during the Great Depression after twenty years of service in order to protest, peacefully, the way Mr. Lewis had been mistreated?

What is particularly pertinent to know now but not mentioned in the obituary fortunately is included in Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadus_Mitchell):

"Throughout his tenure at Hopkins from 1919 to 1939 there were two recurring issues that landed Mitchell in trouble with the university and opened him up to criticism: his radical political and economic views as a socialist, and his outspoken stance supporting equal rights along racial lines. During his time as Professor at Johns Hopkins University those views eventually led to his resignation (1938) over the university's refusal to admit an African American student into the graduate school.

"In 1932 a lynching occurred in Salisbury, Maryland. Mitchell was bothered that it received very little attention in the newspapers or by the police. Mitchell decided to do some detective work. The story went that a suspected murderer, Euel Lee, had been abducted and was hanged in front of the courthouse. Broadus talked with many members of the Eastern Shore community to obtain some basic ideas on the opinions of the people in that region. To his surprise nearly everyone involved in the event had been named, but no one had been arrested for the murder. This was very typical of the lynchings that plagued the South from Reconstruction to as late as the 1950s. Many of those who were involved were well-known people in the area. Fear of being socially ostracized, or worse, prevented most people from taking any action at all. [...] The most frustrating aspect for Mitchell was the fact that the local officials had done nothing about it. Mitchell appealed to the state, which replied that it was entirely within the jurisdiction of the local police. Taking his research public, Mitchell said, 'I abhor lynching and officials who allow it should be impeached... The Southerners whom I know and esteem do not believe that the Negro must remain dependent upon the white man and they believe in the orderly administration of law as opposed to mob violence.' Later when asked to write about his experiences at Hopkins, Mitchell mentioned his frustrations with the lynching and wrote, 'Not only did Eastern Shore peace officers do nothing to identify and arrest members of the lynch mob, but the Governor and Attorney General were quiescent.' Unlike nearly all white Southerners of his day, Broadus Mitchell was willing to publicly criticize an entire white community for violating the essential rights of a single African American man.

"Mitchell ran for governor in 1939 representing the Socialist party, receiving 6,773 votes representing 1.32% of the popular vote."

To be sure, Dr. Mitchell would be heartbroken by the violation of "the essential rights of a single African-American man," the late George Floyd.

He also would be pleased that the Governor and the Attorney General of Minnesota were not "quiescent."

Would he excuse the "mob violence" that followed the homicide?

Of course not!

Dr. Mitchell would lament and condemn those "miscreants' who forsook "the orderly administration of justice" for "mob violence" and profit.

He would recognize them as criminals, not heroes.

Miscreant: a mean, evil or unprincipled person.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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