Remembering H.L. Mitchell

Remembering H.L. Mitchell

The New York Times missed Mitch’s death on August 1, 1989 and so did nearly all the liberal and left publications that share the interracial ideals of the old Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU). He died, as he lived, on the intellectual margin, at his home base in Montgomery, Alabama. And yet, no socialist veteran had spent so much time on the campus lecture trail in recent decades, documenting and dramatizing his experiences as an iconoclastic story-teller with the manner of a rural comedian.

Eleven-year-old H.L. Mitchell—this is a story he told often—rode a special excursion train with his friends and neighbors from his home in Halls to Dyersberg, Tennessee. There, as he saw a black delivery boy roasted alive, he felt an overwhelming chill: “Nauseated, I broke through the crowd and rushed back to the railway station where I stretched out trembling, on the cold ground.”

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