to come back to Memphis so she eventually transferred her employment to the Psychiatric Hospital that used to sit at the intersection of Poplar and Dunlap. “I was the only black in the whole department in Nashville, but most of the people there treated me real nice,” said Mitchell who had problems after relocating back to Memphis. “I handled my problems in Memphis by exercising my rights.” Still wanting to be in a medical field, Mitchell jumped at the chance in 1965 when the Memphis Vocational School opened up classes for operating room technicians to African Americans. “I took the test for that and found out I had passed it,” said Mitchell who then found out the organization had given her score to another person with her same name. “She had already been in class for a couple of months when I called to see why I hadn’t heard from them. So I asked them what they were going to do about this error and they told me a medical records class was coming up soon and that my scores were high enough for it. I accepted the offer since that would be the first time ever Memphis had a medical records class for African Americans.” As Mitchell neared graduation from the medical records class she and other students pending graduation began to receive the medical industry’s professional magazine. “Meharry Medical College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Nashville, TN, had an ad for a medical records assistant. Since I had graduated, I applied but went to St. Louis with my sister who was in Memphis with her ex-Mother-in-Law visiting. At the time I did not have a job and I needed one. After arriving in St. Louis, I applied for, was offered, and accepted the medical records position at the Missouri Pacific Railroad Hospital. I was the first African American to be hired in the position.” About a 3 week to a month later, Mitchell got a call saying someone from Meharry Medical College had phoned. At the time she had two options – listen to a suitor who wasn’t really suitable for her single lifestyle or staying at the Missouri Pacific Railroad Hospital and taking a position as a Medical Records Consultant. “Meharry is a prestigious school,” said Mitchell who returned to Nashville and accepted the opening as the assistant to Monica Wilkins, a decendent and niece of the NAACP-related Wilkins. “When she left for a job in Nebraska, I became the Director of Medical Records at Meharry Medical College where I stayed until I wanted to come back home again and applied at St. Jude.” Mitchell was hired at St. Jude, received promotions and was elevated to the position of Assistant, but St. Jude refused to promote her to the position of Medical Director. “St. Jude did not want me, a black woman, to be the Director,” said Mitchell. “Laura Kettering, a white woman was the Medical Director at the World Health Organization (WHO) told the powers to be at St. Jude that if they did not promote me to the position of Medical Director, she would take the issue up with the WHO so they complied.” Mitchell, being the type of person she is, made friends with everyone from the janitors to the maids and the professionals – white and the few blacks there were at the time – at St. Jude. In due time it became obvious to Mitchell that there was something wrong with the structure of the organization. “We were professionals in the sense of not being in housekeeping,” said Mitchell speaking of herself and her newly made friends in non-exempt employee status. “Just a few of us could eat in the big fancy dining room. The housekeepers, you know, they told me that they couldn’t eat where we ‘high-class negroes ate when I asked why I never saw them in the big, fancy dining room. So they told me they ate behind the cafeteria and I joined them one day. It was hot and the only air was coming from fans blowing hot air around.” Another management-level employee, Ms. Tier who was over the dietary department, saw Mitchell dining with her staff one day and inquired as to why she was eating there. “I would be in department head meetings with her,” said Mitchell. “I told her that I was having lunch with my friends and then I told them that they didn’t have to eat behind the cafeteria any longer reminding them that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed.” Mitchell encouraged those who were not afraid of themselves and their rights to eat with her in the big fancy dining room, but said that really upset some of the St. Jude management level employees and the company didn’t waste much time getting her fired. “Of course they restructured the department to make it seem legal,” said Mitchell who ended up with a subordinate whose real job was to watch her coming and goings. “The next thing I knew I was being told that my children were calling me too much at work.” Mitchell wrote a letter to the Civil Rights Division in Atlanta, GA involved and they forced St. Jude to return Mitchell to full employment status. 8

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