Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist
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Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist

October 23, 2019


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington D.C. [ Silence ]>>Pam Jackson: Welcome. So I thank you for joining us today
here at our Books and Beyond talk, and today we are cosponsored with
The Daniel A.P. Murray Association. I’m Pam Jackson. I’m director for the
the Center for the Book. And I welcome you. At the Center for the Book, we are
committed to making a productive and lasting difference in the world
of reading, promotion and literacy. And as a part of the new national
and international outreach division within the Library of Congress,
it’s our mission to nurture and empower the network of
organizations with whom we partner to strengthen our capacities,
to serve communities, and to provide the broadest
access to the vast, diverse and rich collections that are
here at the Library of Congress. We promote books in
libraries, literacy in reading, poetry in literature, knowing that
they are the best tools for creating and sustaining informed
and engaged societies. And also the best weapons
against intolerance and ignorance. So the Center for the Book’s
mission is carried out nationwide with the assistance from our
affiliated Centers for the Book. There’s a state Center for
the Book in every state, the District of Columbia,
and the Virgin Islands. We have a partnership of a network
of more than 80 organizations that are also focused on
reading, promotion and literacy. Additionally, we play
an important role with the National Book Festival. This year, the festival
is September 24, at the Washington Convention
Center here in D.C. And I urge you to attend this wonderful event in
celebration of reading and literacy, and you can visit us on
the web to learn more about that at loc.gov/bookfest. A few logistics before I
introduce today’s author, we would like to have the
conversation go undistracted, so if you could take a
moment, look at your phone and make sure it’s turned
on silent or vibrate, we would appreciate that. Also we are recording today’s event so if you ask a question
you should know that you’ll be part of our webcast. And it’s exciting for some maybe. We do have our webcasts available. We have at the Center for the
Book, we have more than 250 so far, of author discussions of
all genres of writing, and you can visit read.gov
to check those out as well. Today’s author’s book will be for
sale here at the back of the room, and following the presentation
she’ll be available to sign her book at the table here to my right. And you’ll have a chance to
talk with her about her work. So we’re excited for
today’s conversation and glad she’s being
generous with her time. The chief criteria for
deciding which books to feature in this series is that there must be
a strong connection to the Library of Congress and in
most cases it means that the writer did
the research here, and that’s true for today’s author. Amina Hassan has authored the book
Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist which discusses
one of the nation’s most important but perhaps not widely
studied civil rights attorneys. Loren Miller was a legal strategist who challenged the
nation’s racial order, effectively abolishing
housing covenants, restrictive racial
housing covenants, arguing cases before
the Supreme Court. And one of those cases Shelley
versus Kraemer from 1948 is taught in nearly every American
law school today. Mr. Miller also played a key role in
Brown versus The Board of Education, alongside Thurgood Marshall which ended legal segregation
in public schools. So I think Dr. Hassan will
tell us more about Mr. Miller so I’ll tell you a little
something about her. And it’s an extraordinary honor
to have you here with us today, we thank you for your presence. Amina Hassan is a highly
accomplished citizen. She’s an independent historian and an aware winning
public radio documentarian. She has produced many nationally
distributed works including an NPR radio series on how race, class
and gender shape Americans’ fort, and she’s also produced
another notable documentary, among many of her accomplishments,
on the Bill of Rights. She’s a native of Los Angeles. Dr. Hassan has received her
Bachelor of Arts from the University of California Berkeley and her PhD from Ohio University in
rhetorical criticism. I’d like to welcome
her to the stage now, to discuss with us her new book. Her first book, as it happens. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Well, I
certainly want to thank Pam Jackson for that wonderful introduction,
and I want to thank her other staff which was Ann Bonnie who
helped make this talk possible, and I thank you all for coming,
for taking time out of your day. So let’s start with me
telling you a story. A story of a man more
introvert than extrovert, who made America better
not just for himself alone. A man who knocked down the last
legal crops of segregated housing and segregated education. Loren Miller’s legacy and his
legal accomplishments as his well as his journalistic accomplishments,
are the subject of today’s talk. I hope today when you walk away. you’ll have a better understanding
of Loren Miller as a man, and beyond that, as a
champion of equality. Today I will present a
description of Miller’s early life, then follow that with his
importance and his accomplishments on civil rights, and
his impact on America. You’ll see 2 letters I found
in the Library of Congress here between Loren Miller
and Thurgood Marshall. You will hear of his friendship
with Langston Hughes, and their trip to the Soviet Union in 1932. His marriage and his
legacy as a journalist. Then at the end, I will be
happy to answer your questions. So why is Loren Miller important? Why is a man who died
in 1967 relevant today? Imagine yourself being sued by
your neighbors because you moved into a neighborhood where
everyone looks different from you. Imagine the community using the
court system to force you to move. This situation might sound outdated, but discrimination is
not obsolete in 2016. Miller is relevant today
because he brought an end to racial segregation in America. Because the struggle for civil
rights still continues today, because our ability to
promote progress cannot happen without our court system,
our current freedoms, or lack there of, are
rooted in the past. Future changes depend on previous
court decisions and battles. Loren Miller’s story is a
story of an extraordinary man, an unsigned hero who changed
the course of history. A story that most people
today are unaware. Federal Appeals Court Justice
A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., in paying tribute to the
black lawyers of our country, Higginbotham said in 1979, that
one man who would have been, should have been on
the appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court
was a late Loren Miller. Others felt that he was
barely second in importance to the late Thurgood Marshall. Let me read briefly from
the opening of my book. “Loren Miller died on Vasteel
Day, a fitting coincidence for a man dedicated to storming the
hush hush of court room injustice. The coolness of the summer evening
of July the 14th, 1967, a Friday, he succumbed to pulmonary emphysema. By noon on July the 19th, thousands of people overflowed the
capacity of the Methodist Church. Filling the pews or
crowding out doors, was virtually every back lawyer
and most of the judges in the city. A multitude of greats, near
greats, among them dignitaries and just plain Joes, came to pay
final respects to the great man. Lena Horne, the show stopping
beauty of film and song, blacklisted in the 1950s
for her political views, spoke at the ceremony and later
acknowledged hundreds of letters, condolences, and telegrams. Mourners came from far and
near to attend the rites of the longtime civil rights
leader and prolific writer, lawyer of intimidating
rectitude, and key strategist in the legal campaign to
overturn racial discrimination, particularly in housing
and education. A man, who by sheer force
of will and determination, improved the lives of those
on the periphery of justice.”>>Dr. Amina Hassan:
Although Miller became one of the nation’s most prominent and
influential civil rights attorneys of the 1940s to the 1960s, he grew
up in a mutable, unbearable poverty on farms in Nebraska and Kansas. He wrote in his unpublished
autobiographical novel of his childhood, that one night,
there was a sudden clapping of the trap, and the
squeal of the rat. Before the night ended, his
mother had caught 14 rats. They were what might be called
a family of itinerant squatters. And here, I am going to return to
my book and read about the kind of world Loren Miller was born into. “Loren Miller came into the
world on the western edge of the Omaha Indian
reservation in Pender, Nebraska, on January 20, 1903. He was born during the American
coal famine of 1902 to 1903, when fierce industrial warfare
erupted in the coalfields of Pennsylvania and caused a fuel
shortage with a broad ripple effect. In Nebraska, people turned from
burning coal to burning corn to hear their homes and cookstoves. In neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa, fuel-starved factories
threatened to shut down. Public schools in many states were
closed as coal supplies dwindled. In Indianapolis, along the railroad
yards, poor people scavenged lumps of coal and hauled them away
in wheelbarrows and sacks in broad daylight in full
view of guards with rifles. Eventually, the federal
government intervened, turning from the strikebreaker
to peacemaker for the first time in US history. Perhaps, the atmosphere
of social, political and economical unrest surrounding
Miller’s arrival presaged what lay ahead for him, a life on
the front line of justice where he would shine a
light into the dark shadows of racism and inequality.” Miller was soft spoken, slightly
built, intellectually brilliant, extraordinarily sensitive,
and scholarly looking. The FBI reported he had
a small scar on his chin. Born in 1903 in Nebraska, he
was a son of a former slave who married a white woman. He wrote that his mother’s love
for his father was so great that it led her to
cross the color line. However, the hard scrambled
life, living in abject poverty, sometimes took a toll on his
mother, a former school teacher. It was during these times that
she leaned heavily on her bible to keep cheerful despite
the hardships. As a child, he was shy,
small, easily intimidated. He played ball just enough he
said, to keep from called a sissy. He grew up on a farm, but he didn’t
like killing chickens or hunting. He cried at the sight of his
father bating a fishing hook with live sparrows
taken from their nest. Before Miller entered school, he
had taught himself how to read. By the time he was
10, the townspeople, who happened to be mostly white, began saying that 10 year old Miller
was the brightest child in school. When Miller was a boy living
in Nebraska, his father worked at the courthouse as a janitor. His father would take him to
work where Miller would sit in the court room and listen to
the trials, watching and learning. Whenever people asked him what he
was going to be when he grew up, his answer always remained the same. I’m going to be a lawyer. This is what his father had
hoped him to be, and he did. Eventually, Miller’s
family moved to Kansas. Displeased with his new
school, he wrote to complain to his former school
teacher back in Nebraska. In her reply, and this is 1914, she said don’t you get discouraged
Loren about your school work. If you do your best, you will surely
become far greater than the teacher who won’t give you for
credit for what you do. Maybe you will be our
president someday. But if you do not become president, you will surely feel some other
good place if you do your best. 100 years ago, it was
impossible for a black boy to even consider becoming
President of the United States. But this school teacher,
who happened to be white, believed that one day he would
do something very important. Determined to succeed, Miller
returned to his studies and worked harder than ever before. He went to college where he
studied to become a lawyer. In 1928, he graduated
from Washburn College in Kansas, with a degree in Law. Although Miller trained as a lawyer, what he really wanted
to do was be a writer. To write novels and poems. But he was born at a time when
educated black people had 3 choices. In 1929, following the
death of his sister, Miller set out for Los
Angeles from Kansas. He was a freshly minted
member of the BAR who preferred political activism
and writing to the practice of law. Straddling a career as a lawyer
and journalist, when he arrived in Los Angeles, he quickly found
work as a newspaper reported for the largest black
newspaper at the time. Very quickly, he became the
newspaper’s city editor. In 1932, using his clout at the
newspaper, he invited his friend and prominent writer, Langston
Hughes, to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, they decided
to drive to New York and travel to Russia to make a film
about blacks in America. That trip sealed their
friendship for the next 40 years. However, 5 months later, the
project ended for political reasons and Miller returned
to the United States without the movie ever being made. Soon after returning to Los Angeles,
Miller married Juanita Ellsworth, who in 1927, graduated from the
University of Southern California, where she studied to
become a social worker. After his trip to Russia,
Miller, urged by his new wife, returned to the practice of law. Although he sought to pursue the
writer’s life, the need to put food on the table at the height of the
Great Depression propelled him to work as both lawyer
and journalist. He admitted that he was
dragged kicking and screaming into the practice of law,
because you in those days he said, a negro could be a doctor, lawyer or
school teacher and that’s about all. He sacrificed his dream, not a man
given to brooding or self pity, Miller accepted the
career path he chose. Miller and his wife Juanita
maintained a circle of friends which included, among others,
the singer and actor Lena Horne, Nobel Peace Prize recipient,
Ralph Bunche, the Harlem Renaissance painter,
Aaron Douglas, and Carey McWilliams, editor of The Nation Magazine and
one of the Hollywood ten attorneys who defended black listed film
makers during McCarthyism. As Miller’s legal work focused
increasingly on civil rights, he became friends from with
prominent attorneys from the NAACP and The American Civil
Liberties Union. His reputation as a skilled
and brilliant attorney grew from local prominence
to national recognition. Miller became known locally in
Los Angeles as the go to guy, if you were turned away
from an ice skating rink, a movie house or a restaurant. He started taking on higher profile
cases that impacted national issues. During World War II, when President
Roosevelt authorized the interment of Japanese Americans, Miller and his ACLU colleagues took
a very unpopular position. A position that not even
Jewish organizations or the NAACP would take. Although Miller and his friends
fought hard to halt the curfew and interment of west coast
Japanese, their efforts failed. When the army trucks and soldiers
came for Miller’s neighbors, he did more than watch as they
were carted off to the camps. He had already arranged
the whole [inaudible] of his Japanese neighbors until
they returned after the war. What is not so widely known, is
that in 1946, before Brown V Board of Education of Topeka
Kansas, Miller was part of an important class
action suit in California. It challenged the constitutionality of segregating Mexican
American children from California’s public schools.>>Dr. Amina Hassan: On behalf
of the National Lawyer’s Guild, the NAACP and the ACLU, Miller
submitted amicus briefs, friend of the court legal briefs,
in support of Mendez V Westminster. It was the first case to hold
as school segregation itself as unconstitutional and
violates the 14th amendment, the constitution’s
equal protection clause. What is important about the Mendez
case is that it was the first case to use sociological and
psychological evidence to show how segregation
damages children. And this was before Brown
V Board of Education. The uniqueness of Brown, is that it too used sociological
data as evidence. That strategy led to the historic
decision to end racial segregation in America’s public schools. Although Loren Miller
did not stand up in court to argue the historically famous
Brown case, he drafted most of the legal briefs that lead
to this monumental victory. At the same time that Miller worked
on the Mendez case, Hattie McDaniel, the first black woman to
receive an Academy Award. She won an Oscar for her
role in Gone with the Wind. She was being sued because she had
audacity to buy and live in a house in Los Angeles’s exclusive
Sugar Hill district. It was thought that there
was little possibility that a black movie star
would be forced to move. However, this was a
time in Los Angeles, when the only way a
black person could live in a restrictive area,
was as a servant. It was a time when the black
residents of Los Angeles, long fed up, filed more
suits contesting the validity of restrictive covenants than
in any part of the country. On December the 5th, 1945,
Hattie and her 50 co-defendants and hundreds of sympathizers, appeared in court in
all their finery. One writer said, that the stylist
atmosphere in the court was such as to make one wonder if the
judge would pour tea during the afternoon recess. Ultimately, Miller won what
considered the first restrictive housing case on constitutional
grounds. Afterwards, Miller wrote
a friend “I rushed home to try the Sugar Hill case, and
succeeded in pulling a rabbit out of the hat by inducing
a local judge to hold race restrictive covenants
unenforceable on the grounds that such enforcement would
violate the 14th amendment.” The Sugar Hill victory
was a monumental moment. For Miller, it was the first
of many high profile cases. Because Miller argued more
segregated housing cases than any attorney did, 100, he
earned the title of Mr. Civil Rights of the Western United States. By the mid 1940s, Miller
was part of a group of brilliant NAACP legal
defense fund attorneys led by Thurgood Marshall, who
changed the course of history. Miller argued two landmark cases
before the US Supreme Court. In 1948, he argued the
famous Shelley V Kraemer case that all lawyers study
in law school today. Alongside Thurgood Marshall
and Charles Hamilton Houston, Miller overturned racial
restrictive housing covenants. This meant that it became
illegal to stop people from living where they wanted because
of their race. However, before the Shelley
case ever came to court, the NAACP held several meetings
across the country to determine which cases, which strategies, and which attorneys should stand
before the US Supreme Court. On the screen here, in this April
1947 letter from Loren Miller to Thurgood Marshall, found
here at the Library of Congress, Miller suggests that “They seek
outstanding lawyers from all over the nation to join forces” and
naturally he adds that he’ll be glad to do whatever he can to assist. In this next NAACP letter,
dated October the 27th, 1947, Thurgood Marshall confirms that
Loren Miller will argue one of the four cases before
the Supreme Court. According to Marshall, he
is under extreme pressure to select a big shot attorney,
not someone like Miller who had never tried
a Supreme Court case. In page 1, paragraph 3 here, Marshall mentions there has
been a lot of discussion on what lawyers will be selected. But here he says I am not
for having a person simply because he is refuted
to be a big shot. Then on the second page, Thurgood
says there is a tremendous amount of fast foot work going on and
these cases are too important to tolerate any shenanigans. He stuck with Miller because
he had more experience than any attorney did. [ Silence ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Thurgood
Marshall remained unconvinced, in this particular case, that
the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment
was the best strategy. Miller unflaggingly
persistent, convinced Marshall that the equal protection clause
and the due process clause of the 14th amendment
are intertwined. When the Shelley case finally
did reach the Supreme Court, it included nonlegal,
sociological materials on the affects of segregated
housing. Miller said “The question before
the Supreme Court was a simple one. What the court decided was that
no state could enforce any law that deprives its citizens
of life, liberty, or property without due
process and equal protection. In other words, restrictive
covenants violate the 14th amendment.” Thurgood Marshall said that the
Shelley case was unquestionably one of the most important in a
whole field of civil rights. Aware that Miller’s strength lays in
his command of the English language, Marshall again turned to Miller. This time to write the
majority of the brief in Brown V Board of Education. Six briefs to be exact. Because of Miller’s contribution, segregation in America’s
public schools became illegal. These cases laid the foundation
to end segregation in America and fueled the civil rights
movement and the passes of laws like the Civil Right Act of 1964. Yet, during the 50th and 60th
anniversary celebrations of Brown, Miller is not even mentioned. His erasure from our collective
memory is a real travesty. Loren Miller lived
a well rounded life. While he focused much of
his life on legal battles, he never fully abandoned his
love of writing and journalism. By the 1950s, Miller owned his own
newspaper, the California Eagle, publishing the news for and about
the black residents of Los Angeles. Brad Pie, the sports
writer who worked for the California Eagle
Newspaper wrote how Cuz, as Miller was affectionately known around the newspaper,
enriched his life. Using sports metaphors, Pie
wrote, in the civil rights field, to me he was a Jim Brown
of the legal profession, knocking down racial
barriers all around them. He dribbled through the courts
of the land like Elgin Baylor and scored as many
points in the legal field as Wilt Chamberlain does
on the basketball court. As a lawyer, journalist,
author, publisher and scholar, he was an all around man as
Willie Mays is on the Diamond. Towards the end of his legal
carrier, in 1964, he became a judge. Although Miller’s intelligence, admired by virtually
everyone he met, he had a tendency towards
razor sharp outspokenness. His asset whip was quick to burn
holes into the toughest skin and eat right through double
talk hypocrisy and posturing. I would like to conclude by
saying Miller was committed to making democracy
work for every American. He said “It goes without saying that
I am opposed to any discrimination of any kind on racial and religious
grounds, or on any other grounds. I think that we must do that,
not only in simple justice to minority groups of any
kind, but out on a realization that the majority has
as big of stake, if not bigger, than the minorities. Either we shall have to make
democracy work for every American, or in the last analysis,
we shall not be able to preserve it for any American.”>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Loren Miller
died in 1967 at the age of 64. His words ring out
just as loud today. His impact on all our lives
and freedoms is experienced when we can live where we
want, study where we want. His legacy laid the foundation for today’s ongoing
progress for civil rights. In recognition of his many
contributions to the field of law, the state BAR of California in 1970 established the Loren
Miller Legal Services Award, a lifetime achievement award
given annually to a lawyer who has demonstrated
a long term commitment to providing legal
services to the poor. We owe much to this great man and we shall celebrate him
as a true American hero. Thank you, and now
for your questions. [ Applause ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan:
So just pop up there. Yes.>>Thank you very much
for your presentation. I was impressed by your research, especially at the Library
of Congress. I noted that you used several
judicial papers and NAACP records. You mentioned earlier that you
had an unpublished autobiography. Where did you find that?>>Dr. Amina Hassan: His
family donated his papers to the Huntington Library
in San Marino, California, and earlier the family, a
couple years before that, had come across papers that Loren
Miller had of Langston Hughes over their many years
of corresponding. And that group was donated first. And then finally the latter group. I got really lucky, I wasn’t
really decided if I was going to do a Loren Miller book, but I
want to the Huntington the very day that the curator was signing
the receivership of the papers. He had not even seen them. He said you want to go down to
the basement and I said yeah. And so he let me look for like
three or four hours, and I was just in awe, I said I’m going to do this. I saw a lawsuit against him
from the newspaper publisher when he had bought the newspaper
[inaudible] and I said oh okay. And so I did a great
deal of research there. I also did an amount of research
at the National Archives as well as interviewing people but the
Huntington had the basis of it because they had his papers,
and like you mentioned, the unpublished autobiography. Yes?>>I’m not from the United
States, I’m from the Caribbean. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan:
He was quite critical. 10 years after. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Yeah,
because he basically was on the delivered speed, because most
of the briefs that he wrote were for Brown 2, because there’s
a Brown 1 and Brown 2. And yes, he wrote,
he criticized people for basically sitting
on their morals. He said there’s a lot to
do and it’s been 10 years and these kids aren’t
even the schools yet. And so he was very critical of that
and that was like his personality because I think maybe he wasn’t
so well known because he kind of burned some bridges because even
though he owned a newspaper and all of that, and he was involved in
so much especially in LA and all, but because he didn’t promote
himself, he wasn’t an opportunist in that sense, I mean, he
ran for congress and lost, he didn’t get past the primary. But only because people
were pushing him to do that. And there’s a long letter
in his files about that, about how he didn’t exploit
himself for other people, you know to promote
himself in that way. Because basically he was
a [inaudible] kind of guy. His wife was more the society
maven, and she was involved in a great deal, women’s
organizations, black women’s organizations,
literary organizations in California, and she and someone
else started an organization called the League of LA Arts in Los
Angeles when Langston Hughes in 1939 could not find a theater
to put on one of his plays and out of that relationship they
started this literary organization which continues today.>>Let me ask another question. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan: I’m sorry,
I can’t quite hear the question. [ Inaudible Question ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Well, he supported Pan-Africanism
I think intellectually, and also because in the 30’s,
he was much more to the left. He mellowed out by the time
the 40.s and the 50’s happened, because he belonged
to the John Reed Club and that’s why he also had
an FBI file that started in I think in 1941 or 42. So in fact his becoming a judge took
a long time because he was so close to the communists because he wrote for a great many communist
publications. In the 60’s, he supported
the Freedom Now movement, he wrote several articles
particularly in the nation, and one is called Farewell
to Liberals, which is basically saying okay,
you’ve helped us white people, you’ve got us this
far, but now we need to lead this movement ourselves. So he was very clear there. Also in 1963, after
a shootout in 1962, he represented I think 14
black Muslims in Los Angeles. Actually, something very
similar is going on now, with the police force is that there
was a shoot out and one man died, I think 7 were shot and
injured, and there was case where 14 of them went to court. They lost but Miller was one
of the attorneys handling that. So even though he sort of
distanced himself from the left in a particular way, he
always was the Marxist and I think his distancing
himself from the communists later in the 50’s and stuff was
just sort of self preservation because of what had happened
to other attorneys in that era. But this woman back here,
she wanted to ask something.>>Can you speak a little
more to his relationship with Charles Hamilton Houston?>>Dr. Amina Hassan: He
was very critical of him, and there was a particular case, I think it was called the
George Crawford murder trial, and in 1935 or around there. Even though he belonged to the local
branch of the NAACP in Los Angeles as one of the legal
team, he was critical. Nationally, during the time of the
Scottsboro Trial, he took the side of the communists against the NAACP
about how that was being handled and then because of that era, Charles Hamilton Houston was
quite involved with the NAACP, so he was very critical
at that period but by the time the Shelley
case comes up in the mid 40’s, he sort of changes his
tune to the point that, I can’t remember what was the
reason he wrote a letter to him, but he compliments Houston on some
particular thing, so he had kind of mellowed out, but he
was quite critical earlier in this one particular case that
had gone, he thought he had sold out this black man
in his murder trial. Yes?>>Was he a published author? Did he publish any books?>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Yes,
he has a definitive study, it’s called The Petitioners,
the History of the Negro in the United States Supreme Court. And it came out about a
year before he died, 1966, and it started the definitive
history of the interaction between African Americans
and the Supreme Court. And it’s quite interesting in
one respect, because in it, he doesn’t mention his
involvement in several of the cases that he mentions in the book. He doesn’t, he didn’t
say oh I did this. No, it’s very distanced
in that sense. And it’s something that new lawyers that are studying different
aspects of the law read. It’s sort of a primary
text in that sense. So it’s a very interesting thing. And that’s where I also found out he
had this grand uncle who had a case that went to the Supreme Court,
I write about it in the book, who had a Supreme Court case,
a public accommodations case that wound up in the
Supreme Court in 1883. And so this very cantankerous
grand uncle of his, he went into a hotel restaurant,
sat down, and this was in Kansas, to be served and they
refused to serve him and it even made the papers. And he marched immediately to
the Kansas US Attorney General and complained, and that case
would up going to the Supreme Court and was bundled I think
with 4 other cases, and what the Supreme Court
said, the decision was, it said that Congress had no right to pass the Civil Rights
Act of 1875. So there was that. But the same man, his uncle, grand
uncle, he was in the civil war, along with two of his brothers. And he fought for his pension
for years, his veteran pension, for about 9 years or
something like that. And then he, I hope this isn’t
offensive, and then he’s quoted as saying, you know he
was fed up at that point, that he can’t get his pension,
he loses in the Supreme Court and he says I’m going off
to live with the heathens and he moved to Oklahoma. [ Laughter ]>>Dr. Amina Hassan: But
it comes from this family that won’t lay down,
they’ll challenge it. Yes ma’am?>>Thank you so much
for this presentation.>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Oh, thank you.>>I see Lester Grainger’s
name here, and I wanted to know the
nature of that relationship and also whether Loren Miller was
a mason because Lester Grainger was and [inaudible] was,
Thurgood Marshall, and there was a behind the
scenes cavalry of masons that supported the
Civil Rights Movement.>>Dr. Amina Hassan: I’m
not sure if he was a mason. I think he might have been. I didn’t find anything but then
you know, his files are massive. I do know spoke at
some Mason Hall’s. Lester Grainger. He and Lester Grainger,
were political buddies, they belonged to some of
the same organizations, political organizations,
leftist organizations, and when Loren Miller went to
become an editor of the New Masses and another newspaper in New York,
Lester Grainger and Miller were like roommates, and they kept
a really long friendship. And I think Lester Grainger
had come to California with the Urban League first,
before he became the head of the Urban League later on, and
so they were really good friends and I think Lester
also wrote columns when Miller bought the California
Eagle in 1951 that Grainger wrote. And every time Miller and his
wife would go to New York, he would visit Lester Grainger and
his wife and family and all of that. So they were very, very close. In fact there was one letter
that Grainger writes him, wanting him to sort of endorse
something with the Urban League, and Miller writes back and
says you don’t want to use me. I still have that pink tinge
and you’ll do more harm by having me write a letter of
endorsement or something like that. And it did follow him
for a long time. Any other questions? Yes, ma’am.>>Thank you Dr. Hassan. Just for clarification,
because Mendez versus Westminster
also is marginalized in history much like Miller. So, within that case, is
Miller arguing for violation of the 14th amendment or is
he arguing that officially, Mexican Americans are
legally classified as white and therefore shouldn’t
be subjected to separate?>>Dr. Amina Hassan: I believe
it was just the 14th amendment. And he was just an amicus brief, but
he happened to belong to the NAACP, he belonged to the National Argue and he was also a member
of the ACLU. And so, he wrote and
submitted briefs under those three organizations
but he didn’t argue it. I was wrong at one point, I say
it in the book and I’m wrong, that he argued it because I
did come across a document that said he argued as an
amicus which is sort of rare, but he didn’t and I stand corrected. I don’t think, and I haven’t really
read the Mendez case carefully to see if they use the Treaty
of whatever, Hidalgo something or other, that for those that
don’t know, in California, Mexicans traditionally have
been known as, are designated as Caucasians, white, and even
though they’re ill treated, it has something to
do with the history of California being originally under
the ownership of Mexico and Spain, and the whole sort
of history of that. But I don’t know. I haven’t really read
it carefully to know, because when I research I’m just
looking for stuff for Miller. Yes ma’am?>>What is your next
project you’re working on?>>Dr. Amina Hassan: Well, I
am having trouble with that. I was going to do something
on Agustus Hawkins, who’s the first African American
and Congressman from the west. He was in the California
Assembly for 20 years and then he became a Congressman,
and he lived a long time, and he was very important in
terms of labor and education. There’s a Humphrey Hawkins Bill and
I went to UCLA where his papers are about a dozen times and
I just couldn’t get fired up about him as a personality. What I liked about Miller is that he wasn’t just
committed to black people. He was just about what’s
right and what’s legal. And that’s why he’s associated with
Mexican Americans in California, with Japanese Americans, just very
close to Jewish American community in California, particularly
southern California. And that’s what made him
so interesting for me. And so I played around with the
Agustus Hawkins thing for a while. Now I’m thinking something
else, it just sort of popped up in my head the other day. So I think I might ask someone else
to kind of give me their opinion about it because when I
find that there are books that haven’t been written like
Loren Miller, there wasn’t any, and I thought more people knew about him even though I didn’t
know very much about him. But as I’ve been speaking to
people, I found that really, I’m just surprised that he’s in
because he really had done so much, there’s an elementary
school in Los Angeles, there’s a park named after him. He is the co-founder of the Los
Angeles Sentinel Newspaper in 1934. It is still functioning today. It has like over 150-175
thousand readers and he doesn’t even
get credit for that. It’s his cousin, Leon
Washington gets the credit for being the founder of
this ongoing newspaper. He wrote editorials for it
all the way through the 40’s. He was always the legal consultant and when his cousin Leon
Washington had a stroke, he took over this paper. But he also helped found it. In fact he brought his cousin
from Kansas to Los Angeles. But he doesn’t get credit for that. And that’s really interesting. So yeah, there’s another thing. I know California a little bit
better, even though I live here, and I live part of the
time in California. I know it a little better. But because, also I’m interested
in the west because there’s so much written about African
Americans, it’s mostly in the south or the east coast, not too
much even from the Midwest. But you are seeing more and more
things about African Americans and their contributions to the
history of the country in northern and mostly southern California. More books are coming out, and so
I kind of have more of an affinity for that, and I always like
people who have been overlooked, or the kind of radio programs I
used to do, it’s always about people who are disenfranchised
some kind of way. That always kind of
gets my juices going. Any more questions? I think we’re kind
of close on our time. You want to come up here? Oh okay. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Pam Jackson: So, thank you
so much for sharing yourself and your work, your expertise. I just want to make sure everyone
knows that we have the book for sale in the back and that Dr. Hassan
will be signing books and available to talk a little bit more and
sign the book in the back as well. And to again say thank
you for being here. Books and Beyond hosted by the
Center for the Book in partnership with the Daniel A.P.
Murray Association. Thanks for being here today. Take care. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at llc.gov.

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