(1925-2020) A tireless worker for the improvement of life among African Americans, especially children, Frieda Mitchell has received national and international recognition for her work in child care reform and civil rights. Mrs. Mitchell overcame many obstacles before embarking on her life’s mission.
Mitchell was born in Sheldon, S.C. to farmers who took on odd jobs so that their four children could attend private boarding school, as there was no school bus transportation for African-American children. 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, where she was determined to make a difference. 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.
In 1965 she was the organizer and chairperson of the Beaufort County Education Community (BCEC), the central force for school desegregation. The committee’s efforts led to a landmark election in 1968 when Mitchell and Mrs. Agnes Sherman were the first African Americans elected to a school board in South Carolina.
As a co-director of a community development project at Penn Community Services Center in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Mrs. Mitchell realized the magnitude of poverty and neglect of many of the rural children. She addressed daycare needs for poor working families, with emphasis on nutrition and health.
In 1970 she convened an historic meeting to organize United Communities for Child Development (UCCD), a private, non-profit federation established to assist and promote community-controlled child care centers in South Carolina. Mitchell became the first Executive Director of UCCD. The UCCD model was replicated in other Southern states and Mitchell became sought after as a consultant at both national and international levels.
In 1995, Mitchell retired from her position with UCCD. By 1996, however, she secured a $500,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the construction of a modern childcare facility. The center serves eighty children, and is named in her honor.
Among her numerous awards are the Marian Wright Edelman Award for Service to Children. She is one of seven recipients of the prestigious John D. Rockefeller, III, Public Service Award.