Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lee Lorch (1915-2014)

Battles with Stuy Town even then.


Anonymous said...

We can only wish that the so-called leaders of our community today had 10% of the passion and cojones as Mr. Lorch.

Anonymous said...

"We can only wish that the so-called leaders of our community today had 10% of the passion and cojones as Mr. Lorch."

Damned right!

Anonymous said...

Ditto for the tenants.

Anonymous said...

@12:57 Has to be from a TA board member or close supporter. Indicative of the TA us vs them mentality. Real leadership means that you have no such divisions. It's up to the TA officers and board to figure out what they need to do to get broad community support.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story, an amazing Stuyvesant Town family, Lee Lorch and his family. Loudly proudly fighting for what is right and in the end saying he would do it all again, do better and do more of the same.
He wasn't out for popularity or conforming to a quiet consensus. He was for justice.
He may not have won all his battles, but he fought them and never ever gave up.
That is a life well lived.

Anonymous said...

Lee's wife, Grace, is an equally historic civil rights activist renowned for supporting and comforting Elizabeth Eckford while crowds heckled and abused her during Little Rock school desegregation crisis in 1957. (see photo)

It seems the couple's lives are more celebrated in Canada, where they were welcomed as heroic civil rights activists forced into exile.

The New York Times carried a lengthy obituary yesterday on desegregation activist Lee Lorch, a college teacher whose work in breaking down segregation barriers in Manhattan housing was his lead accomplishment. But he also played a role in the Little Rock school desegregation crisis in 1957.

David Margolick, who wrote the obituary and who wrote "Elizabeth and Hazel," the sharp examination of the famous photograph of Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine being abused as she walked alone to Central High School, provides that story. After being fired at Fisk University for his activism in 1955, Lorch got a job at Philander Smith College in Little Rock the next year. His wife, Grace, was an activist, too.

It was Grace Lorch who made the headlines the following year, for comforting Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine after Ms. Eckford’s walk through a group of angry hecklers outside Little Rock Central High School, a moment captured in a famous photograph. Mr. Lorch, who had become an official with the Arkansas chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., was working behind the scenes, accompanying the black students to school, then tutoring them as they awaited admission.

Once more whites abused the Lorches for their activities, evicting them from their apartment, harassing their young daughter, burning a cross on their lawn and placing dynamite in their garage. And black leaders, mindful of Mr. Lorch’s Communist associations, kept their distance.

“Thurgood Marshall has been busy poisoning as many people as he can against us,” Mr. Lorch complained in October 1957, referring to the lawyer leading the N.A.A.C.P.’s desegregation campaign in the courts and, later, a justice of the United States Supreme Court. The group’s field secretary, Clarence Laws, wrote Mr. Lorch: “The best contribution you could make to the cause of full citizenship for Negroes in Arkansas at this time would be to terminate, in writing, your affiliation with the Little Rock Branch, N.A.A.C.P.”

When, at the end of the school year, Philander Smith declined to renew Mr. Lorch’s appointment, it was official: No American college would have him. So in 1959, he moved his family to Canada ..

There's a great deal more on the Lorches history here on a website from Canada where he ultimately found long tenure as a teacher and where he died. The link includes the outpouring of world response Grace Lorch received after going to comfort Eckford.