University of Maryland Dedicates Art-Sociology Building Named for Late Congressman Parren Mitchell

First African American to obtain a graduate degree from UMD honored at formal ceremony

Dec 03, 2015, 14:00 ET from University of Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Dec. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The University of Maryland today dedicated the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building named for the late Congressman, civil rights leader and first African American to obtain a graduate degree from the university.  

At a formal dedication ceremony held today, UMD officials and local and state dignitaries paid tribute to Parren Mitchell's life and legacy, including University President Wallace D. Loh; Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Gregory Ball; Chancellor of the University System of Maryland Robert Caret; and family members of Mitchell.

In October, UMD announced that the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, the governing body that grants approval for the naming of campus buildings, unanimously voted to approve the naming of the Art-Sociology Building after Parren Mitchell. University leadership agreed that celebrating the memory of Parren Mitchell allows the community to recognize and honor his legacy by continuing to advance greater social inclusion, both at UMD and the community at large.

"The legacy of Congressman Parren Mitchell deserves recognition for many reasons. He successfully brought together the concerns of public policy with the insights derived from social science research, and the sensitivities arising from his critical perspective on race relations in America. His efforts brought him broad recognition, but his personal achievements were attained while in the pursuit of the public good," said Dean Gregory F. Ball. "Congressman Mitchell serves as a shining example of the type of ideals that we often seek to guide our university as a public academic institution."

In his youth, Parren Mitchell joined his brother Clarence Mitchell Jr. – who went on to become Chief Lobbyist of the NAACP – in protesting against segregation in the city of Baltimore. In 1942, Parren Mitchell served in the Ninety-Second Infantry Division of the US Army as a commissioned officer and company commander during World War II and received a Purple Heart. After his discharge in 1946, he attended Morgan State University under the GI Bill and received a Bachelor's Degree in 1950. He then applied to the graduate program in sociology at UMD, where he was ineligible for admission on account of his race.

In October 1950, the Baltimore City Court ordered UMD to accept Mitchell as a full-time student in College Park, where he faced an unwelcoming environment. Despite these challenges, he received a M.A. in sociology and graduated in 1952 with honors. Mitchell would state later that the sociological training he received at College Park would shape his activism in politics and social change for years to come.

"It took remarkable courage to endure the silence he faced," said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. "His academic success created opportunity for all who followed."

After serving in many academic and public positions in the 1950s and 1960s, Mitchell became the first African American elected to Congress from Maryland in 1970, as well as the first African-American congressman from below the Mason-Dixon Line since 1898. Representing Maryland's Seventh Congressional District, Congressman Mitchell was one of the 13 founding members of the Black Caucus, and became known as a staunch supporter of minority-owned businesses.

Annually, UMD's sociology department hosts the Parren Mitchell Symposium on race and educational opportunity. Learn more at http://criticalraceinitiative.weebly.com/parren-mitchell-symposium.html.

About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 37,000 students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs. Its faculty includes three Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 47 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.8 billion operating budget and secures $500 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, visit www.umd.edu.

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