Who We Are

The John Mitchell, Jr., Program for History, Justice, and Race contributes to and promotes a more informed public, political, and academic dialogue on the intersections between historical memory, justice, and racial reconciliation.

Our Vision

The John Mitchell, Jr. Program envisions an equitable and just world.

This is not a world in which the traumatic legacy of the brutalities of dehumanization have been erased from the historical record. Rather, it is a world in which the ideology of White supremacy has been deconstructed in order to provide platforms that provide opportunities for the centering of marginalized and minoritized voices. This centering involves the creation and facilitation of spaces where dialogue and narrative change occurs across all institutions with persons of all backgrounds.

An equitable and just world is one where the barriers between the academic space and the community it serves cease to exist. It recognizes the value in the previously devalued and allows for the positioning of oneself to assist in the repair of relationships in service of the nation and the world.

Our Mission

To bring about an equitable and just world, the mission of the JMJ Program is to foster narrative change, build peace, advocate for human rights, and promote racial and social justice in the United States and the world through a recognition of the historical and modern impacts of systemic and systematic racism.

We foster narrative change by reframing the relationship of the past to the present and the future. We create accessible platforms for the exploration of history through digital humanities and media-based approaches.

We build peace by cultivating collaboration across institutions and community engagement.

We advocate for human rights in our scholarship and in our practice. We focus our research and practice on:

  • Anti-racism and Decolonization

  • Justice and Equity (that looks like racial, economic, political, educational, etc.)

  • Peace and Human Rights (Kingian)

We promote racial and social justice in the United States and across the world through direct action by building and supporting communities to have their voices heard.

Our School

We’re based at the Center for Peacemaking Practice at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. At the Carter School, we educate the next generation of peacebuilders and social change advocates by teaching them that the struggle for justice and equity are at the center of any truly peaceful society.
Congressman John Lewis spoke to a full house in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall at George Mason University in October 2018. Photo by: Ron Aira/ Creative Services/ GMU
woodcut portrait of a young Black man

Our Namesake:
John Mitchell, Jr.

Born into slavery in 1863 on the Lyons family estate in Henrico County Virginia, near Richmond,
John Mitchell, Jr. was the first of two sons in his family. His father, John Mitchell, Sr., was a coachman, and his mother, Rebecca, was a seamstress. In 1884, Mitchell, Jr., became the “fighting” editor and publisher of the Richmond Planet newspaper, where he would save the newspaper from collapse and would develop a reputation as an anti-lynching advocate. At the height of the lynching crisis, Mitchell, Jr., was elected president of the National Afro-American Press Association, where he led fellow black newspaper editors throughout the nation in an organized protest against lynching and in support of anti-lynching crusader and fellow journalist, Ida B. Wells.
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His advocacy efforts included fighting against lynching and housing discrimination, advocating for the rights of black prisoners, opposing the disfranchisement of black Virginians, and eventually, leading a boycott that eventually bankrupted a segregated street car company.  Known throughout the nation as a civil rights advocate, Mitchell, Jr., a former delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1896, would run for Virginia Governor in 1921. For 45 years, he led the Richmond Planet, and he would go on to found Mechanics Savings Bank in 1902, the third bank chartered by black businessmen in Richmond, Virginia. Before Gandhi and King, John Mitchell, Jr., emerged as an advocate for social change. He died on December 3, 1929, at 66 years old.

Program Staff

Our team of is made up of dedicated individuals, including world-renowned activists and scholars, with proven records of leadership, innovation, and success. In carrying out programs rooted in critical historiography, narrative change approaches, and the principles of conflict resolution, our team is committed to preserving the legacy of John Mitchell, Jr., and working toward an equitable and just world.

Current Fellows

Faeven Dereje

Faeven Dereje

Restorative History and Community Engagement Fellow

Ava Smigliani

Ava Smigliani

Restorative History and Community Engagement Fellow

Michelle Kim

Michelle Kim

Criminal Justice Case Researcher Case Advocate

Nasrin Ali

Nasrin Ali

ARCH Database Creation Digital Exhibit Coordinator

Board of Advisors

Our advisors are world-renowned scholars and activists who are committed to preserving the legacy of John Mitchell, Jr., by helping shape our program’s portfolio of projects, initiatives, and activities.

Affiliate Faculty

Our faculty, fellows, and students conduct cutting-edge research and practice around historical memory, racial justice, and peacebuilding.

Associate Scholars