Henry "Mitch" Mitchell

Aug 2003 - Harlem, NY

Mitch grew up in Texas and was involved in the civil rights movement on the campuses of the University of Texas and Florida A&M. Later on, he moved to N.Y.

Mitch first heard about the Party in NY through the Party's participation in the decentralization of schools in Ocean Hill/ Brownsville in 1968. He heard about the Panthers being beaten in court and he wanted to do something. He saw the address of the office in Brooklyn on TV and left home in search of the Black Panther Party. When he got there they then sent him to the Harlem office, which was closer to his apartment.

Mitch had found heaven. He started going to political education classes and working around the office, selling newspapers, studying and getting to know his comrades. Mitch was one of the oldest members, about 28 at the time, and most of the others were in their late teens and early 20's. Afeni Shakur was his section leader, who kept them fit by running and exercising in the park to get them ready for the revolution.

Mitch woke up one morning and heard on the radio about the big Panther bust (later called the N.Y. Panther 21). He threw himself into helping to maintain the office and helping educate the people about the bust and rally support for the 21. Through his practice, he was made O.D. (officer of the day) of the Harlem office. He had to make sure the office rent was paid, people got the paper out, the comrades had a place to stay, food to eat he did the daily and weekly reports.

It was hard work because almost the entire membership was arrested and there was no money. It was hard keeping the doors open. Janet Cyril was the Breakfast Program Director, who started the first free breakfast program at All Saints Church in Harlem. It quickly spread to other churches and a free clothing program was started. Mitch said people started coming by the office offering to help. The big lie about the Panther 21 wasn't going over well in the community and people were coming to help. Help also came from Central Headquarters. Mitch recalls Brother Alex Rackley coming around and he joined the Party and loved the Party.

One thing Mitch points out was how important it was to keep in contact with his family while working with the party. They provided a good support system. He also remembers when Donald Cox, John Brown, John Clark, and Al Carroll came out to help. He was then sent to the Brooklyn office to help sister Brenda Hyson and then he was able to travel. The Party sent him down to Baltimore where he met Steve McCutcheon and Eddie Conway and helped stabilize the office. Then he was sent to Philly and to the United Front Against Fascism Conference in 1969 in Oakland, CA. He was then ordered to go to New Haven, Conn., where he worked with Doug Miranda, and later was sent back to the Harlem office.

Cointelpro was in full operation and things were getting crazy, so he and Sister Beth Braggs left the Party, headed to New Orleans, and then ended up in Mexico. After traveling around, Mitch surfaced in Houston, Texas, and worked with the NCCF there for a while. He came out to California around 1972. He was assigned to the Oakland Community School and also helped maintain our Party houses and homes, through his work with the Maintenance crew. He left the party around 1978.

Today Mitch lives in Harlem and continues to educate and organize. He works for a local union and he is also working with It's About Time and the New York cadre.