We've been reading so much bad news lately that I thought it was time for a thread providing (I hope) some uplift. I keep a list of courageous souls of all kinds, and I often look at it for sustenance. Last night I was thinking about Grace and Lee Lorch. They're proof that people of impressive accomplishment and even heroism often operate under the radar.
Lee Lorch was a mathematician who began his work before World War II. After the war, he took action to integrate his apartment complex, which had a "no black tenants" policy. (In New York City! It wasn't just the South that had such laws. Dixie just had many more of them.) Because there was no law protecting civil rights protesters, he was fired from his university position as a math professor. Most other universities wouldn't hire him. He began work at Fisk University in Tennessee, one of the finest of the historically black colleges started during Reconstruction. They had to fire him when he was interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee because they suspected him of communist affiliations at some point in his youth. This is how he ended up in Philander Smith College, a small black college in Little Rock, Arkansas.Then came the year when Central High School was officially integrated. Nine African American students had to show up on the first day of school. They arranged to meet at a site off campus and arrived together, with escorts. But one student, Elizabeth Eckford, didn't have a home phone. She showed up at the school alone.
A huge and fierce crowd of anti-integrationists had massed before the school. Eckford quickly found herself surrounded. The only one who came to help her was Lee Lorch's wife, Grace, who had been dropping off her daughter at another school. Grace stayed with Elizabeth and got her home.
Because of that action and the Lorches' public support of integration, they were threatened and harassed. Dynamite was put in their garage. They realized they were endangering their college's funding, so Lorch resigned. He was unable to find other work in the United States, so the family moved to Canada, where he worked in several colleges as a professor thereafter. In the following years, when laws changed in the U.S., Lorch was honored by many of the institutions that had turned him away earlier. Lorch continued his work teaching and doing mathematical research.