Congressman French Hill’s State of the Union guest announced as Arkansas Civil Rights Historian


WASHINGTON D.C. — Congressman French Hill (AR-02) announced that his guest for tonight’s State of the Union address is Dr. Brian Mitchell, assistant professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In October 2018, Rep. Hill’s office worked with Dr. Mitchell to present the family of the late Private Leroy Johnston medals he earned but did not receive for his service in World War I. Rep. Hill introduced the World War I Valor Medals Review Act, which is now law and will ensure that minorities who served in World War I are honored with proper recognition.

 “Dr. Mitchell’s partnership was instrumental in the World War I Valor Medals Review Act being signed into law in December,” said Congressman Hill. “His work advocating on behalf of victims of past racial discrimination sets right injustices perpetrated against African Americans and other minority groups. Only by acknowledging tragedy can we begin to heal and move forward together towards a more hopeful future.”


Dr. Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is an advocate for marginalized communities in Arkansas and specializes in righting the wrongs of discrimination by bringing to light details of the victims and events. Among his work, he has conducted extensive research on the Elaine Massacre and investigated the tragic deaths of the 21 teenagers who were burned in their locked dormitory in Wrightsville in 1959.

In October 2018, Congressman Hill worked with Dr. Mitchell to help recover the medals that Private Leroy Johnston had earned by serving his country in WWI but never received due to racial discrimination. This collaboration was the inspiration for the Word War I Valor Medals Review Act, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and is now law. 

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