Reconstruction expert named new head of research at Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Brian Mitchell, an expert on Reconstruction after the Civil War, has been named Director of Research and Interpretation at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Mitchell will oversee a team of ALPLM historians who organize and study the library’s collection of over 50,000 Abraham Lincoln documents and millions more related to Illinois’ diverse history. Mitchell will also serve as a leading interpretive voice at the institution – a role that will examine, share and explain unique stories through exhibits and programs.

Mitchell taught at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for 16 years, first as an adjunct professor and then as a tenure-track assistant professor. He is also the co-author of “Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Massacre of 1919” and author of the award-winning graphic novel “Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana.”

Mitchell reports to the ALPLM’s chief operating officer and to its executive director, Christina Shutt.

“Dr. Mitchell will be a great addition to our team,” Shutt said. “His knowledge of Reconstruction gives us new perspectives on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. His classroom experience gives us insights into reaching younger audiences. His expertise in digital projects and public history will help us explore new ways of sharing information.”

“It is a tremendous honor to be named Research Director for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum,” Mitchell said. “I look forward to working with the library and museum’s staff and to contributing to the exciting exhibits presented by the museum.”

Mitchell lived in Chicago as a young boy but grew up in New Orleans. He earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the University of New Orleans. Mitchell has also worked for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he was named Arkansas’ federal investigator of the year.

Mitchell’s academic work has often shone new light on people and events that had been overlooked or actively suppressed. His research into an event known as the Elaine Massacre helped lead to memorial markers recognizing the horrible violence committed against Black sharecroppers in eastern Arkansas.

Further research showed that one of the massacre’s victims, a Black veteran of World War I, had been denied a Purple Heart he earned in combat in France. That discovery helped fuel a successful push for a federal law requiring a review of cases where minorities serving in World War I might have been improperly denied Medals of Honor.

The mission of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is to inspire civic engagement through the diverse lens of Illinois history and sharing with the world the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. We pursue this mission through a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship built on the bedrock of the ALPLM’s unparalleled collection of historical materials – some 13 million items from all eras of Illinois history.

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