Admitted to Dartmouth

Once a sailor, then a porter, and now an attendant to a College president, Mitchell returned to Hanover with President Brown, who died a month later. Mitchell lived in the Brown household for the next four years. He served as a lay preacher to brethren in the Hanover-Etna Baptist church and then applied to Dartmouth in 1824. The Baptist church clerk wrote in a supporting letter that Mitchell was “a person of piety and promising talent who sought an education, for which he was qualified and deserving.”

In 1824, Mitchell passed the Dartmouth faculty entrance examinations but was denied admission by the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, who averred that they did not want to offend students. Upon learning of the Trustee’s decision, Dartmouth students from all classes convened and transmitted their collective protest in a decorous letter that concluded:

Far from feeling any disrespect towards him on account of his color or extraction, we think him entitled to the highest praise. We will cheerfully receive him as a companion and fellow student.

The student intercession was led by a future abolitionist spokesperson, Charles Dexter Cleveland 1827, and would be celebrated later as one of the earliest instances of Dartmouth student activism. Mitchell graduated “with honor” in 1828 to become the third self-identified man of African ancestry to graduate from a U.S. college and the first of the Ivies by four decades.

Student petition to admit Mitchell

Charles Dexter Cleveland 1827, who has been described as "relatively dark for a Caucasian," told the trustees that if skin color was a criterion for admissibility to the college, he might himself be disqualified.

Document of Edward Mitchell's standing as member of the church

Dartmouth required evidence that the applicant "sustains a good moral character." "Brother Edward Mitchel is a member in good standing in this Church and is esteemed a person of piety, and promising talents."