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Oral History Project Peeks Behind Scenes

Johnson also sat down with Frank Mitchell in 2008. Mitchell, who grew up in Springfield, Ill., was selected by Rep. Paul Findley (R-Ill.) to be the first African-American page of the House, with approval from then-Minority Leader Gerald Ford (R-Mich.).

In his interview, Mitchell said it was a concerted effort to get an African-American page working in the House, right in the midst of the civil rights movement. Mitchell was appointed on the eve of the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

“You were aware that you would be the first African-American page,” Johnson said to Mitchell.

“Right,” he replied.

“Were you interested, at that point, in making history, or did you just want to become a page and serve for the House?”

“I guess I wanted to become a page,” Mitchell said. “The fact that it was history-making didn’t really affect me, because you don’t feel or sense history while it’s being made. You’re just going through the motions of living your life.”

The Oral History of the U.S. House of Representatives website is oralhistory.clerk.house.gov.

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