Frieda Mitchell. Image from The Island Packet.
(1925-2020) Born in Sheldon, S.C., her parents were farmers who took on odd jobs so that their four children could attend private school. The only option beyond elementary school was Mather School, a private boarding school for girls. Mitchell studied business education and later attended Allen University in Columbia, SC. Eventually she moved north to pursue a better life but later returned home and accepted a position at a Beaufort County school. Observing the dismal living conditions, lack of political savvy and civic responsibility of many of the residents in her community, she organized a massive voter registration campaign. Her efforts resulted in the unseating of a magistrate in her township, who had held the position for fifty years, and in electing the first African American to Beaufort County Council. She also organized and served as the chairperson of the Beaufort County Education Community (BCEC), the central force for school desegregation. The committee’s efforts led to a landmark election when Mitchell and Mrs. Agnes Sherman were the first African Americans elected to a school board in South Carolina.
She also addressed daycare needs for poor working families, with emphasis on nutrition and health. She became the first Executive Director of the United Communities for Child Development (UCCD), a private, non-profit federation established to assist and promote community-controlled child care centers in South Carolina.