The Edward Mitchell Collection

November 07, 2023

The papers of Edward Mitchell, the first student of African descent to attend Dartmouth, supplemented by records of his student years

Rev. Edward Mitchell, written on the front cover of a brown notebook

Front cover detail from a commonplace book of the Reverend Edward Mitchell, ca. 1837. Mitchell Family Fonds P044, P044/A,8.1, McCord Stewart Museum.

About the Collection

Reverend Edward Mitchell (1792–1872) graduated from Dartmouth College in 1828. He is the first person of African descent to graduate from any school now identified as part of the Ivy League, and the third self-identified man of color to graduate from any American college. Mitchell was born in Saint-Pierre, the cultural and commercial center of the French colony of Martinique. In 1810, he traveled from Saint-Pierre to Portland, Maine, and in 1811 he traveled to Philadelphia in pursuit of a religious education. There, in 1820, a chance encounter with Dartmouth President Francis Brown brought Mitchell to Hanover. Initially denied admission to Dartmouth by the Board of Trustees in 1824, Dartmouth students protested the decision with a letter that vowed to “cheerfully receive him as a companion and fellow student.” Shortly after graduation, Mitchell was ordained by the Church as a Baptist minister and traveled through New Hampshire, Vermont, and lower Canada on an evangelical mission, eventually settling in Georgeville, Canada in 1837.

The Edward Mitchell Collection is a collaborative digital project between Dartmouth Libraries and the McCord-Stewart Museum in Montréal, Quebec. It includes transcribed records of Mitchell’s admission to Dartmouth, compositions that he wrote while a student, and notes and texts for sermons delivered as a minister, among other documents. The majority of the original documents in this collection are housed in the McCord Stewart Museum, P044, Mitchell Family Fonds, and are supplemented by original documents housed in Rauner Special Collections Library as part of the Dartmouth Archives (DA-1: Dartmouth College, Board of Trustees Records; DA-2: Vice President and Treasurer of Dartmouth College Records; DA-165: Dartmouth College, Dean of Faculty Records; and DA-857: Rauner Vertical Files); Dartmouth Organization Archives (DO-2: Dartmouth College, Society of Social Friends Records); and as part of collections Mss 848518.1; Mss 824525; and Mss 828361.

Special thanks to Forrester “Woody” Lee ’68 for help with document transcription. More context on Edward Mitchell's life is available via "Finding Community: The Life of Edward Mitchell 1828", a digital exhibit co-created by Woody Lee and Jay Satterfield, Head of Special Collections at Rauner Library.

Back to top