Civil rights advocate and friend of the Pilgrimage, Dr. Reavis Mitchell, passes at 72.

Dr. Reavis Mitchell meets with our Spring 2017 cohort at Fisk University.

One of Nashville’s most well-known historians, and a longtime administrator at Fisk University, has died at age 72. Dr. Reavis Mitchell was a civil rights advocate and dear friend of the Pilgrimage.

Starting in 2015, Dr. Mitchell was chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission, which announced his passing this week. The commission describes Mitchell as a “consummate scholar, gentleman and proud Tennessean.”

A 1969 Fisk graduate, Dr. Mitchell joined the faculty in 1980 and served multiple administrative roles. He was most recently dean of the School of Humanities and Behavioral Social Sciences.

Dr. Mitchell helped propel a decades-long push to add more markers about Black history, as well as markers documenting racist incidents and institutions. In 2018, he spoke at the unveiling of a marker for Nashville’s slave market:

“Markers should not be simply to honor heroic individuals. Markers should not be to honor those who are famous or who want to be famous. Markers ought to reflect the true reality of history,” –

A Nashville native, he authored an authoritative history of Fisk University. He was widely published and quoted in local and national media, and a cherished member of the Pilgrimage community.

Sean Greenlee and Pamela Banks present Dr. Mtchell with a gift of gratitude in 2017.

Executive Director of Project Pilgrimage, Felicia Ishino had this to say about Dr. Mitchell, “We visited Dr. Mitchell at Fisk on four Pilgrimages. Each time, it was abundantly clear to me that his commitment to history and the student experience at HBCU’s like Fisk was unmatched. We will miss his presence and will carry on his legacy.”

Dr. Mitchell was married to Nashville psychologist Patricia Mitchell and had four sons. Fisk University invites you to honor the legacy of Dr. Reavis Mitchell ’69 by supporting the Dr. Reavis L. Mitchell Jr. PeyBack Endowed Scholarship.