Charlene Mitchell ran as a Presidential Candidate for the Communist Party USA in the 1968 Presidential elections. This election would make Mitchell the first African American to run for US President. Shirley Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to run for Present of the United States, in the 1972 U.S. Presidential election.
Mitchell was born around 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio and later migrated with her family to Chicago. She received her early education at the Moody Bible Institute.
Mitchell often told of an incident when she visited the jail to see her father at the age of seven. She traveled alone and took several buses. Her mother was sick during this time and could not make the trip. She sent young Mitchell with a basket to give to her father. When Mitchell arrived at the jail, it was very late and the guardsmen tried to prevent her from the visit. However, Mitchell screamed and hollered until the guards agreed to allow her to see her father. After the visit, her father told her mother, to never send Mitchell again, it was too difficult on him and the guard would never get over it.
By the age of 13, Mitchell was heavily involved in activism. She along with black and white teenagers took action with picket signs against the Windsor Theater in Chicago. At the time, the theater segregated black customers in the balcony and at the nearby segregated bowling alley. The group later held a sit-in at the Windsor, with white members going up to the “colored only” balcony while black members took their seats in the auditorium’s “whites only” section below.
In the Election of 1968, Mitchell was the first African-American woman to run for President of the United States in 1968. She represented the Communist Party USA and her running mate was Michael “Mike” Zagarell, the National Youth Director of the party. However, the running mates were entered on ballots in only two states.
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