Black History Month Spotlight: Loren Miller, Icon of Civil Rights Law

Every weekday this month, we’re profiling fascinating figures from L.A.’s Black history

For a running list of all our 2021 Black History Month profiles, click here.

A brilliant lawyer, orator, writer, and wit, Loren Miller (1903-1967) moved to Los Angeles during the Depression. In 1933, he helped found the Los Angeles Sentinel (he would later buy the California Eagle), before turning to a career as a leading lawyer in the civil rights movement, arguing numerous important cases, including one on behalf of homeowners in L.A.’s Sugar Hill neighborhood. Along with a team of lawyers that included Thurgood Marshall, Miller successfully argued the case of “Shelley v. Kraemer,” representing Black homeowners who had been threatened with eviction from their own homes due to racist real estate covenants. On May 3, 1948, the Supreme Court ruled the odious covenants unconstitutional, a major victory in the battle for civil rights. Considered “the best civil rights lawyer on the West Coast,” he also worked on “Brown v. Board of Education”.

In 1964, Miller was appointed to the Superior Court of California, and in 1966 he released his masterful judicial history, The Petitioners: The Story of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Negro. When lauded for his achievements by the ACLU, Miller wrote to a friend in his wry way, “We told ’em so, huh?”

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