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Today Media, DSU unveil new Mitchell Awards to honor DEI&J advocates

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The Mitchell Awards are a new program that will honor Delaware’s leaders in diversity, equity, inclusion and justice efforts.

Delaware Business Times, Delaware Today and Delaware State University are partnering to recognize the individuals in the First State who are demonstrating leadership and success in the important areas of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice.

Applications are now being accepted for the Mitchell Awards, named for the late Delaware civil rights pioneers Littleton and Jane Mitchell, which will showcase those who are championing efforts to educate, inspire and impact communities across the state in an effort to improve opportunities for all, regardless of their race, abilities or background.

“As the conversations around DEI&J increased around the state in recent years, especially after pivotal moments like the murder of George Floyd, we recognized that our publications could help to spotlight those who are making real change in our communities,” said Jacob Owens, editor of Delaware Business Times and an organizer of the program. “In an effort to celebrate that work and help provide new connections, we developed the Mitchell Awards.”

The annual awards program will recognize a handful of advocates with coverage in November editions of Delaware Business Times and Delaware Today. They will also be honored at a special Nov. 9 event at the Christiana Hilton that will feature an awards presentation, a panel discussion, and a keynote speaker.

Delaware State University officials will participate in the judging of the award applicants while university students will aid the publications in the creation of the coverage and supporting materials.

“Jane and Littleton Mitchell were a legendary duo. They inspired generations of activists and represented the very best of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the 20th and 21st centuries. Their legacy is not just one of firsts. It is one of excellence and service in the highest form,” said Devona Williams, chair of the Delaware State University Board of Trustees. “To remember them in this way and honor those on whose shoulders they stand is why the University is proud to partner with Delaware Business Times and Delaware Today in what we expect to be a time-honored tradition for many years to come.”

The awards were named after the Mitchells because of their long history in working for equal rights in Delaware through a difficult period in the state’s history.

Littleton “Lit” Mitchell, a Milford native who attended a segregated school system, served as a Tuskegee airman in World War II, and earned a special education teaching degree, became the first Black teacher in Delaware to teach white students, serving at the Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City. He became involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as state president of its chapters for 30 years. Lit Mitchell fought to address issues of fair housing, school desegregation, equal access to public accommodations, voting rights, and increased employment and educational opportunities for Black residents, including being involved with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated all American schools.

Jane Mitchell, a Pennsylvania native who grew up in Wilmington, married Lit while working at the Tuskegee Institute Hospital in Alabama. She became the first Black registered nurse employed in a hospital in Delaware, serving as head nurse at Governor Bacon Heath Center. Jane Mitchell would rise to director of nursing services at the center and later president of the Delaware State Board of Nursing while leading efforts to desegregate the state’s hospitals. In 1999, the Delaware Psychiatric Center in New Castle was named in her honor. 

For more information on the Mitchell Awards, please visit delawarebusinesstimes.com/mitchellawards.

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