Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Loren Miller was one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights attorneys from the 1940s through the early 1960s and successfully fought discrimination in housing and education. Alongside Thurgood Marshall, Miller argued two landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decisions effectively abolished racially restrictive housing covenants. One of these cases, Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), is taught in nearly every American law school today. Later, the two men played key roles in Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools. Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist recovers this remarkable figure from the margins of history and for the first time fully reveals his life for what it was: an extraordinary American story and a critical chapter in the annals of racial justice.
Born to a former slave and a white midwesterner in 1903, Loren Miller lived the quintessential American success story, blazing his own path to rise from rural poverty to a position of power and influence. Author Amina Hassan reveals Miller as a fearless critic of those in power and an ardent debater whose acid wit was known to burn “holes in the toughest skin and eat right through double-talk, hypocrisy, and posturing.”
As a freshly minted member of the bar who preferred political activism and writing to the law, Miller set out for Los Angeles from Kansas in 1929. Hassan describes his early career as a fiery radical journalist, as well as his ownership of the California Eagle, one of the longest-running African American newspapers in the West. In his work with the California branch of the ACLU, Miller sought to halt the internment of West Coast Japanese American citizens, helped integrate the U.S. military and the Los Angeles Fire Department, and defended Black Muslims arrested in a deadly street battle with the LAPD. In 1964, Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed Miller as a Municipal Court justice for Los Angeles County, honoring his ceaseless commitment to improving the lives of Americans regardless of their race or ethnicity.
“Either we shall have to make democracy work for every American,” Miller declared, or “we shall not be able to preserve it for any American.” The story told here is of an American original who defied societal limitations to reshape the racial and political landscape of twentieth-century America.
“In this book, Amina Hassan recovers the forgotten story of the biracial African American writer, newspaper editor, radical activist, and respected judge who also happened to be one of the most important civil rights lawyers of the twentieth century. Everyone should know Loren Miller's story. This is a tremendous achievement.”—Kenneth W. Mack, author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer
“What an outstanding and incredible work on civil rights attorney Loren Miller! I salute Amina Hassan’s keen analysis of Miller’s journalistic approach to advancing civil rights for Black Americans.”—Diane E. Watson, U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, 1999–2001, and U.S. Representative from California, 2001–2011
“Amina Hassan has written a superb biography of California attorney Loren Miller, who played a major role in civil rights reform on the local, state, and national levels between 1940 and 1965. Hassan’s book belongs on the shelves of historians, urban studies scholars, and anyone interested in the movement for racial equality in the United States.”—Martin Schiesl, author of The Politics of Efficiency: Municipal Administration and Reform in America, 1880–1920
"A recommended work that adds to the corpus of civil rights histories and offers a rich portrait of a central figure in the related struggle in California."–The Library Journal