Charlene Mitchell, who became the first Black woman to run for U.S. president as a party nominee when she was selected for the Communist Party’s ticket in the 1968 election, died Dec. 14 at a nursing facility in Manhattan. She was 92.

Her son Steven confirmed the death. No cause was given.

In raw numbers, Mitchell’s impact on the 1968 race was sharply limited by rules in many states that raised obstacles for the Communist Party and other smaller groups to get on the ballot. She and running mate Michael Zagarell received slightly more than 1,000 votes, including write-ins.

Yet she had wider resonance as a political pioneer and articulate spokeswoman for minority and labor causes in a campaign in which her calls for sweeping reforms were echoed on many other fronts. The 1968 race, won by Republican Richard M. Nixon, unfolded amid protests over the Vietnam War and ongoing battles for racial justice – including a nation reeling from the assassination of civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It’s never easy to be a Communist. It’s never easy to be a revolutionary,” she said in an interview during the campaign. “To be a revolutionary means you have to have a certain kind of dedication to a movement, to a principle . . . Now, that does not take place with some ease or comfort.”

Besides Mitchell, the 1968 race included a campaign by Black comedian-activist Dick Gregory. A Black civil rights leader, Channing Phillips, was put forward for nomination by the D.C. delegation at the Democratic National Convention.

Other women had previously made public moves for the presidency, including Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who sought the Republican nomination in 1964. In 1972, a Black congresswoman from New York, Shirley Chisholm, made a bid for the Democratic nomination – often cited as a trailblazer in the party for Vice President Kamala Harris.

Mitchell became a standard-bearer for the U.S. Communist Party as it groped for a new identity. Soviet-directed crackdowns on freedom movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia made pro-Moscow views untenable. Student-led groups, meanwhile, had largely shifted to antiwar protests, and the postwar economic boom had undercut Communist recruiting in factories and elsewhere.

The shadow of the anti-communist blacklists and “Red scare” inquests of the 1950s had somewhat faded, but the Cold War still drew sharp ideological lines for Americans. Mitchell sought to build more connections with emerging feminist movements and Black empowerment figures such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture.)

At a Harvard speech in 1968, Mitchell called the late civil rights leader King a “tremendous human being,”

“But I do not accept nonviolence as a principle,” the Harvard Crimson quoted her as saying. “I am closer to Malcolm X. He stood for freedom.”

Mitchell had earlier gained attention in 1959 for defiant exchanges during an appearance in Los Angeles before a panel gathering testimony for the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Citing constitutional protections, she repeatedly declined to answer questions on Communist Party views or her own stances. At one point, however, she took aim at the entire hearing as running roughshod over normal jurisprudence.

“It seems to me if anyone is guilty of any crime or any criminal act, she should be called before a jury, a regular court,” she said, adding that the committee had “no right to investigate.”

Among Mitchell’s admirers was Angela Davis, who was hired in 1969 as an assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, but then became a counterculture icon after being dismissed over issues that included her links to the Communist Party.

In 1970, Davis was the subject of an FBI manhunt after weapons she owned were used in an armed attack on a civic center in Northern California’s Marin County, in which four people were killed, including a judge. After her arrest, Davis said she had no knowledge the weapons would be used in an attack.

Mitchell led the defense committee for Davis, who was acquitted in 1972. The work also led Mitchell to spearhead the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a group whose work foreshadowed some of the current movements for social justice.

In 1975, Mitchell’s team helped in the acquittal of a Black woman, Joan Little, on charges of killing a North Carolina prison guard who she claimed attempted to rape her. Little asserted that she acted in self-defense.

In a statement, Davis said Mitchell stood out for her ability to “discover ethical connections between the political and the personal, the global and the local.”

The anti-apartheid fight in South Africa became a focus for Mitchell in the 1970s, years before widespread divestment protests and boycott movements began around the United States. The Communist Party led rallies calling for South Africa’s expulsion from the United Nations and the release of Nelson Mandela and other jailed members of his African National Congress.

After Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Mitchell and Davis visited him in South Africa. Mitchell was later invited back for the election in 1994 that made Mandela president.

Around this time. Mitchell also broke with the U.S. Communist Party’s leadership, which had faced internal tensions over its direction after the death in 1986 of Henry Winston, one of the party’s most prominent Black voices. Mitchell and others believed the party was ignoring racial and other social inequities and also needed to adapt to new technologies for outreach.

“A radical . . . is seen as someone who acts on what they think,” she said in a 2017 interview, “and they do it in a kind of bold way. And that was my feeling about where I was – and I’m still that way.”

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Charlene Alexander was born on June 8, 1930, in Cincinnati to parents who were part of the migrations of southern Blacks to northern cities in the early part of the century.

When Mitchell was 9, the family moved to Chicago, where her father worked as a Pullman porter and political organizer for Rep. William L. Dawson (D-Ill.), one of the few Black members of Congress at the time.

As a teenager, she had joined protests to end segregation at a cinema on Chicago’s North Side and joined the youth branch of the Communist Party. Mitchell became a full party member in 1946 and studied briefly at Theodore Herzl Junior College (now Malcolm X College) in Chicago.

“Some people fall in love with Shakespeare,” she said in 2006. “I fell in love with the ‘Communist Manifesto.'”

She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, and later founded the all-Black Che-Lumumba Club, named after Che Guevara, a hero of Cuba’s revolution, and Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. She moved to New York in 1968.

Her marriages to Bill Mitchell and Michael Welch ended in divorce. Along with her son, she is survived by two brothers.

Until 2005, she worked with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., head of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and host of the PBS show “The Chavis Chronicles,” recounted comments by writer James Baldwin during a conversation over racism and politics in the 1980s.

“Baldwin affirmatively asserted that, “There is no question in my mind that Charlene Mitchell remains the Joan of Arc of Harlem because she dares to utter unspeakable truth to power,” Chavis wrote.

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