Black Historian Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Shortly after being granted tenure, Brian K. Mitchell, an associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court against the university.

The suit claims that “Dr. Mitchell has experienced a nearly continuous pattern of discriminatory interference with achieving access to fair terms, conditions, and opportunities for advancement. These egregious, on-going acts of interference by senior UALR administrators began with Dr. Mitchell’s initial hiring negotiations, continued with unfair and improper evaluations, escalated when he reported discrimination concerns, and finally culminated with harassment and retaliation through official grievance and research oversight procedures.”

“UALR has a very public face in regards to diversity and having a diverse faculty. And then it has what’s happening privately,” Dr. Mitchell said. “What they don’t say is we’ve lost a tremendous amount of our faculty of color over issues like this. There are a number of people who have resigned or quit and not gotten tenure and left over these exact issues.”

Dr. Mitchell is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. His research interests include African American antebellum history, free Black communities, and urban history. Dr. Mitchell has taught at the university since 2006 and has served on the full-time faculty since 2015. He holds a Ph.D. in urban studies from the University of New Orleans.

In his research on the 1919 Elaine Massacre in Arkansas, Dr. Mitchell discovered that Leroy Johnston, a Black World War I veteran and victim of the massacre, had his medical records altered, denying him military honors that he deserved. Dr. Mitchell’s efforts resulted in Johnson’s family receiving federal benefits and several military medals. (See JBHE post.)

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  1. I am glad the the brother got tenure. I hope this suit makes things better for faculty of color moving forward. If it is any consolation to Dr. Mitchell his situation is not an infrequent occurrence in higher education. I myself got booted out of the academy after filing complaints about blatant racial discrimination, excessive course loads and so on. I even had a homosexual professor hit on me (I’m straight) in front of witnesses and my dean told me he didn’t THINK the professor was hitting on me. Diverse Issues in Higher Education did a piece on situations like this and google Dr. Christian Head. He was awarded a nice settlement from UCLA for a similar situation to Dr. Mitchell’s. Maybe this is the case the makes the difference.

  2. The most unfortunate aspect aspect about this story is how so-called degree holding Black men will allow some intellectually insecure White male/female intimidate them in any capacity. These educated Black men need to start speaking the language these White academic understand, such as physical force. For those who dissent, these same Black academics would never allow another Black male to be similarly disrespectful without a physical confrontation. Similar claims can be made with Dr. Christian Head (UCLA) who was a rather big guy but he allowed these diminutive White male administrators to disrespect him for 10 plus years, then, he finally awarded a “nice settlement” at what cost? It’s called Dr. Head being accustomed to living a particular lifestyle in Westwood. When will Black academics learn not to accept any form of disrespect from White faculty and White administrators. No excuses brother.

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