Charlene Mitchell

Charlene Alexander Mitchell (born c. 1930) is an African-American international socialist, feminist, labor and civil rights activist. Formerly a member of the Communist Party USA, which she joined at 16 – emerging as one of the most influential leaders in the party from the late 1950s to the 1980s[1] – she now belongs to the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS).

Early years

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Charlene Alexander (Mitchell) migrated with her family to Chicago.[1] During the Second World War she grew up in the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses and took classes in the Moody Bible Institute.[1]


At the conference on Black Women And The Radical Tradition held "in tribute to Charlene Mitchell" at Brooklyn College Graduate Center[2] in 2009, Genna Rae McNeil recounted the origins of Mitchell's involvement in political activism. "I probably have been trying to be an organizer most of my life," Mitchell observed to McNeil in 1995. McNeil went on to relate that: age 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Charlene's mother's illness necessitated that Charlene take several busses for one of the scariest trips on which she had ever been thus far in her life. She was on her way to the Federal jail to visit her labor-activist father. After a long ride with several transfers, she arrived so late at the Federal jail that the guards deemed it too late for her to really have any kind of visit. Technically, at the time of her arrival, visiting hours were not over, and Charlene at age 7 argued the point, protesting the guards' decision which, if implemented, would have prevented her from visiting her father and delivering a basket of items her mother had entrusted to her for him. Through what she remembers and describes as "hollering and demanding", she managed to persuade the armed guard to let her go up in the jail elevator at the very end of visiting hours then, and after she "hollered" some more, she persuaded the guard that visiting her father with the glass between them was completely unacceptable, and made it impossible for her to deliver the basket. The guards held the basket and let her go into the room where there were table visits permitted providing visitors remained on their side of the table. As soon as Charlene's father came out and sat down, Charlene jumped around the table and sat on his lap. The guards threw up their hands, but she was not finished yet. She kept talking to them about the basket, telling the guards they could not go away with her father's basket, until they finally agreed that her father could see the basket before they took it back for inspection. In their very next conversation Charlene's mother and father had, Charlene's father told her mother 'never let Charlene come again'. It was too hard on him and the jailers would never get over it.

Mitchell's early civil rights activism included organizing, in 1943 at the age of 13, both black and white teenagers in pickets and other actions at the Windsor Theatre in Chicago, which segregated black customers in the balcony, and also at a nearby segregated bowling alley. The lack of success of picketing and leafletting led the young Charlene to organize another action for her group of activists, who took the name American Youth for Democracy. They 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.[3]

So began a long career of unrelenting activism and persistence, perhaps most famously illustrated in the success of the campaign to free Angela Davis, which she led alongside Kendra Alexander and Franklin Alexander.[4]

Speaking at the same event as McNeil, Davis described the effort to free her, spearheaded by Mitchell, as "one of the most impressive mass international campaigns of the 20th century." Davis stressed that the relative lack of celebrity Mitchell enjoys today in comparison to some contemporaries and later generations of women's movement and civil rights leaders involved in the same struggles is no indication of the impact her work has had. "I have never known anyone as consistent in her values, as collective in her outlook on life, as firm in her trajectory as a freedom fighter." At another tribute to Mitchell, at the CCDS Convention in Chicago, CCDS militant and leader Mildred Williamson said of Mitchell: "If it hadn't been for Charlene opening my eyes to many things and encouraging me, I wouldn't be here today, nor would I have been able to achieve many of the other things in my life."

In 1993, Mitchell attended the Foro de São Paulo in Havana as an observer from the CCDS.[5] In 1994 she served as an official international observer of the first democratic elections in post-apartheid South Africa[6] and was an observer at the congress of the South African Communist Party that year. Also in 1994, she visited Namibia as a guest of the mines and energy ministry. In recent years, she returned to Cuba for rehabilitation medical treatment following a stroke suffered in 2007.


Lisa Brock interviewed Mitchell in her home in Harlem in 2004. Among the topics raised were anti-colonialism, Pan-Africanism and the internationalism of the Communist Party USA:

BROCK: I want to turn now specifically to solidarity with Africa. And were you involved in solidarity activity with the growing anti-colonial movement in Africa, that sort of emerged after World War II in the late '40s and then sort of reached sort of a pinnacle in the '50s and '60s? Were you involved in any of that anti-colonial activity?

MITCHELL: Actually, in the '40s, no. The most I knew about Africa in the '40s, I guess, was the existence of the ANC. But no, I really didn't know much about it. But in the '50s, in the late '40s, in the '50s, already there was tremendous concern on the left in the United States, but particularly in the Communist Party. Not all the left agreed in terms of the importance of Africa. And I began to read a lot. But also, there was Alphaeus Hunton, whom I had come to know, and his interest, and his knowledge about Africa was—really showed deep. And it was at that time that Ghana was in the process of receiving its—or winning, not receiving, its independence. And Du Bois was already interested in what was going to happen there. The interesting thing about it, at that time, was the Freedom newspaper—Paul Robeson and Louis Burnham, and Du Bois was kind of part of it, but they were mainly the activists there. And that was where there was a tremendous bringing together of the struggles in Africa and those for liberation in the United States, of African Americans. So that was when I really began to see the importance of it.

And then in, I think it was 1957, I came to New York for a meeting, and I heard about a big demonstration that was going to be held in Washington, DC, and it was in support of the movements in Africa for liberation. And the speaker was Tom Mboya. And it was really interesting because we came back and the song that we were all—it was kind of a protest song when we were marching sometimes. It's "I want to be a Mau Mau just like Jomo Kenyatta," and it was kind of a more militant aspect of the youth movement and the peace movement and bringing it together. Because it wasn't taking place all over in the peace movement, or the youth movement, and we kind of saw the importance of that.

And then, of course, what was happening in Kenya at the time—and I hadn't thought about it until right now, and that is all of the blame for the terrible violence and how awful, people were being hatcheted to death, and so on, is the same as they're projecting what's going on in Iraq, with the beheadings and so on. All the blame, now, is on the people who are conducting this kind of terror, and not the people who brought earlier all the terror up on these people, in terms of just forbidding them any humanity whatsoever. So I really had not thought about that until now.

So, but that was kind of the beginning. And then, in 1960, when I went to London, one of the first people I went to meet with—well, I saw Claudia Jones, whom I had met earlier here in New York. Claudia was a member of the leading committees of the Communist Party and had been deported to London. So I went to visit her, and she took me to visit Yusuf Dadoo, who is an Indian member of the Communist Party and had been a member of the Indian Congress of South Africa. But by then he was a leader of the Communist Party and a leader in ANC, and at one point, I think the editor of the African Communist, which is a quarterly magazine that still comes out. And I remember being so impressed about his knowledge and his understanding of what actually was happening in Africa, and why South Africa was so important.

And immediately after that, I began to hear more and understand more a phrase that Henry Winston, who's the chairman of the Communist Party, used. He would say that Israel was the northern end opening of American imperialism, and South Africa was the southern opening for imperialism in South Africa—in the world. And I kind of would put that together with what I had learned from Dadoo, and it was so very—not just moving, I mean, it explained so much to me that as a teenager, I could not understand. I'm not even sure teenagers do today, that Africans did not all come from—either come from princesses and princes or they were slaves. I mean, there were workers, there were people who were farmers. They were people. And they fought for their freedom from day one. But we seem to see it only as a bunch of people who need help, and not that they have been of assistance to the whole world development, and that a lot of the wealth in the world has come from that, from those workers.

So to me, Africa opened its doors, to me, more as part of the movement and solidarity with us as we were with them. And I kind of always saw that as an equal thing, because I would learn so much from it.[7]

Writer and CCDS militant Carl Bloice celebrated Mitchell's globe-embracing vision and work at the 2009 CCDS Convention: "I have a picture on my wall at home. It's of a hall full of Bulgarian communists, all smiling, and right in the middle is one Black woman, Charlene."[8]

Electoral contests and party affiliations

As a third-party candidate in the Election of 1968, Mitchell was the first African-American woman to run for President of the United States. She represented the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and her running mate was Michael "Mike" Zagarell, the National Youth Director of the party. At 23 years of age, he was younger than the constitutionally required age of 35 to hold office. They were entered on the ballots in only two states.[9] Mitchell's brother and sister-in-law Franklin and Kendra Alexander had also been active in the party.

In 1988, Mitchell ran as an Independent Progressive for U.S. Senator from New York against the incumbent Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He was re-elected by a large margin.[10]

While Mitchell had long been a Communist Party member, she and other reform-minded people wanted changes. African Americans were unhappy with the leadership of Gus Hall, as they believed he failed to recognize the international Communist Party members' responsibility for problems in the Soviet Union and other European nations. They planned a reform movement and matters came to a head at a convention in December 1991. Many who signed a letter urging reform were purged by Gus Hall from the CPUSA's national committee, including Mitchell, Angela Davis, Kendra Alexander and other African-American leaders.[11] As of 2006, Mitchell was active in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), an independent offshoot of the Communist Party.

Selected works

  • The Fight to Free Angela Davis: Its Importance for the Working Class, New York: New Outlook Publishers (1972), ISBN 0-87898-085-7
  • Equality: its time has come, New York: New Outlook Publishers (1985)

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c Erik S. McDuffie, Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism, Duke University Press, 2011, p. 140.
  2. ^ "Angela Davis Tribute to Charlene Mitchell".
  3. ^ McNeil, Genna Rae, speech at Black Women and the Radical Tradition Conference, Graduate Center for Worker Education, Brooklyn College.
  4. ^ Stern, Sol. "The Campaign to Free Angela Davis and Ruchell Magee", The New York Times, July 27, 1971: "The committee dynamo is 30-year-old Franklin Alexander, who has been working for the Communist party for 12 years. Alexander's sister is Charlene Mitchell, a high-ranking American Communist who was the party's candidate for President in 1968."
  5. ^ James, Joy, Transcending the Talented Tenth: Black Leaders and American Intellectuals (Routledge, 1997).
  6. ^ William Minter, Gail Hovey, and Charles Cobb Jr. (eds), "'Faces Filled with Joy': The 1994 South African Election", from No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2007.
  7. ^ "Interviews for No Easy Victories: Charlene Mitchell".
  8. ^ Davidson, Carl, "Report on the CCDS 6th Convention, 2009", ZNET, August 5, 2009.
  9. ^ Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » Women Running for President in the General Election
  10. ^ New York Senate race details at
  11. ^ Erwin Marquit and Doris G. Marquit, "Party survives, but as a shell" Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Minnesota Daily, February 19, 1992. Accessed February 12, 2006.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
James W. Ford
Communist Party USA Presidential candidate
1968 (lost)
Succeeded by
Gus Hall
1988 United States Senate election in New York

The 1988 United States Senate election in New York was held on November 8, 1988. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan won re-election to a third term.

Episode 523 (Neighbours)

"Episode 523" is the 523rd episode of the Australian soap opera Neighbours. It premiered on Network Ten on 1 July 1987. The episode was written by Ray Harding, directed by Rod Hardy, and executively produced by the serial's creator Reg Watson. "Episode 523" focuses on the wedding of popular couple Scott Robinson (Jason Donovan) and Charlene Mitchell (Kylie Minogue). The storyline was devised by the producers after some viewers became outraged by the idea of an unwed couple moving in together. They also believed that the wedding would be "the perfect climax" to the character's long-running relationship and an instant ratings hit.

The episode was filmed in secrecy and with a limited budget three months before it was broadcast. The wedding ceremony was filmed in the nave of The Holy Trinity Church in Doncaster. "Episode 523" is one of only a few Neighbours episodes to include the entire cast. A new romantic style wedding dress made from ivory silk, organza and chantilly lace was made for Minogue's character. The ballad "Suddenly", which was written and sung by Angry Anderson, was chosen as the theme to the episode. Prior to its broadcast, Minogue and Donovan promoted the episode by making several appearances at shopping centres around Australia.

"Episode 523" became one of the most watched soap opera episodes upon its broadcast in Australia. When it aired in Britain in November 1988, it attracted an audience of 19.6 million, making it the third most watched programme in the country that year. The episode was well received by critics and viewers. TV Week's Kelly Bourne stated that the wedding would be the most exciting television soap opera event of 1987, while Network Ten's head of drama thought it was "a major turning point for Neighbours". The wedding has been voted one of the most memorable soap moments and is often included in lists featuring the greatest television weddings of all time.

Jane Harris (Neighbours)

Jane Harris is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Annie Jones. She debuted on-screen during the episode broadcast on 31 July 1986 and was created by writer Ray Kolle. Jones originally auditioned for the role of Charlene Mitchell (Kylie Minogue), but she was not successful. This prompted Jones to telephone the producers for two months asking for a role in the show until she was cast. In 1989, Jones decided to quit the serial in order to pursue other projects and the character departed on 9 September the same year. In 2005, Jones was one of many ex-cast members who agreed to return to the serial, marking the 20th anniversary of Neighbours. On-screen she was featured making a cameo in Annalise Hartman's (Kimberley Davies) documentary about Ramsay Street. Jones reprised the role again in 2018 for two guest stints starting on 6 April and 26 November 2018.

During her early episodes she held the nickname "Plain Jane Superbrain", for her intelligent, yet geeky image, which she was referred to by other characters and media alike. She is portrayed as a mousy type character, going on a journey of self-discovery as she transformed into a heartbreaker. Her most notable point in this storyline is her makeover in which she wears make-up in place of her glasses and dresses attractively in order to win Mike Young's (Guy Pearce) heart. Her makeover has been well-documented by critics and holds a place in popular culture, where she is often referred to in cases of extreme makeovers. However, some academic publications have criticised her makeover for conforming to the stereotype that females cannot be sexy and intelligent at the same time. Jones also received the Logie Award for Most Popular Actress while portraying Jane.

List of Neighbours characters (1986)

Neighbours is an Australian television soap opera that was first broadcast on 18 March 1985. The following is a list of characters that first appeared in the serial in 1986, by order of first appearance. All characters were introduced by the show's executive producer Reg Watson. The 2nd season of Neighbours began airing from 20 January 1986. The episode marked the first appearances of Zoe Davis, Madge Mitchell and Mike Young. Clive Gibbons and Nikki Dennison also arrived in January. Rosemary Daniels began appearing from February, while Nikki's mother, Laura, made her debut in March. The following month saw the first appearances of Jack Lassiter, Charlene Mitchell and Nell Mangel. Madge's brother, Tom Ramsay, arrived in May and Sue Parker debuted in June. July saw the first appearances from Jane Harris and Sam Cole. Sam's mother, Susan, arrived the following month, along with Dan Ramsay. Ruth Wilson and Edna Ramsay debuted in September. Warren Murphy was introduced in October.

List of celebrity guest appearances on Neighbours

Neighbours is an Australian television soap opera first broadcast on 18 March 1985. It was created by TV executive Reg Watson, who proposed the idea of making a show that focused on realistic stories and portrayed adults and teenagers who talk openly and solve their problems together. Neighbours has since become the longest-running series in Australian television and the seventh longest-running serial drama still on the air in the world. In 2005, the show was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame.The first celebrity to make a guest appearance in the show was former Skyhooks band member Red Symons. He made his on-screen debut ten days after the series began in March 1985. He played the role of Terry Inglis' ex-husband, Gordon. In 1986, record producer Molly Meldrum arrived in Ramsay Street to sign Charlene Mitchell (Kylie Minogue) after hearing her singing backing vocals on a music demo. Greg Fleet's appearance in 1988 saw him run over popular character Daphne Clarke (Elaine Smith) with his car, resulting in her death. 1995 saw Chris Lowe, one half of British music group, The Pet Shop Boys, appear and ask Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy) and Marlene Kratz (Moya O'Sullivan) for directions to a studio. A year later, writer Clive James had a walk on part as a postman. Australian cricketer, Shane Warne made a two episode appearance as himself in 2006. He came to Erinsborough to pick up a cheque for his charity from Harold Bishop (Ian Smith). Australian Idol presenter Andrew G made the first of three appearances by the show's stars in February 2007. Judges Marcia Hines and Ian Dickson followed in November 2007 and March 2009 respectively.

During three episodes set and filmed in London, a number of British stars filmed cameos, including Neil Morrissey, Emma Bunton, Julian Clary and Michael Parkinson. Morrissey was the only one of the group to play a character and not himself. British comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams appeared as their characters, Lou and Andy and Tim Vine had a small walk on part as a lost tourist. Australian comedians Hamish & Andy made their Neighbours debut as radio hosts, Fred & Big Tommo and Lehmo had a cameo as himself in July 2010. The Charlie's bar set provides a stage for musicians to perform their songs during episodes. September 2008 saw girl band, The Veronicas sing their song, "This Love" on the set and Liverpudlian band, The Wombats sang three of their hits. Other singers and bands to appear at Charlie's, include Kate Ceberano, Ben Lee and former Australian Idol contestant Jacob Butler. AFL player Clint Bizzell began appearing as footballer Adam Clarke in a storyline that ran for just over a week in March 2009.

Dutch violinist André Rieu arrived in Ramsay Street in early April 2009. His cameo was later named Neighbours' "weirdest ever storyline" in an online poll. WWE wrestler Dave Batista signed up to appear in scenes with wrestling fans Callum Jones (Morgan Baker) and Toadfish Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney), during his promotional tour of Australia in June. In the same month, it was announced that British pop singer, Lily Allen, was to make an appearance and perform her new single "22" on the show. Allen was interviewed by Matthew Werkmeister's character, Zeke Kinski, at the Pirate Net radio station.

Mike Young (Neighbours)

Mike Young is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Guy Pearce. He made his first on-screen appearance on 20 January 1986. Mike's storylines included being physically abused by his father, moving in with Des and Daphne Clarke, making friends with Charlene Mitchell and Scott Robinson, his relationship with Jane Harris and becoming a teacher. Mike departed Erinsborough to be with his mother on 6 December 1989.

Ramsay family

The Ramsays are a fictional family from the Australian soap opera Neighbours. The family were one of three central families created by Reg Watson and introduced in the first episode of Neighbours in March 1985. Watson wanted the Ramsays to be humorous and rougher than the Robinson family. The cul-de-sac which is the central focus of the series is named after the family. In 2001, the last Ramsay, Madge (Anne Charleston), departed the series. Eight years later, a new generation of the Ramsay family was introduced.

Scott Robinson and Charlene Mitchell

Scott Robinson and Charlene Mitchell are fictional characters and a supercouple from the Australian soap opera Neighbours. Scott was portrayed latterly by Jason Donovan, and Charlene was portrayed by Kylie Minogue.

Suddenly (Angry Anderson song)

"Suddenly" is a power ballad by Angry Anderson from his first solo album, Beats From a Single Drum. Released in Australia in July 1987 and in the UK in late-1988, the song became Anderson's biggest hit, reaching number 2 in the ARIA Singles Chart, and number 3 in the UK Singles Chart. There were two music videos made in 1987 for this song.

Part of the song's chart success is attributed to it being used in the Australian soap Neighbours ("Episode 523"), during the wedding of the characters Scott Robinson and Charlene Mitchell, which was viewed by 20 million viewers in the UK. The ballad, which is played over the ceremony, was also chosen by Kylie Minogue, who played Charlene, as the song to be played at her own future wedding."Suddenly" was denied the UK number 1 spot by the release of the Kylie and Jason Donovan duet, "Especially for You".This song has been used in the season 3 final of the UK sitcom Gavin & Stacey at the wedding of Vanessa Jenkins and Dave Coaches. It was also used in the first episode of Sirens on Channel 4 in the UK for the opening scene and throughout the episode. More recently, the song has regularly been played for nostalgia purposes at social and university reunions.

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