Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lee Lorch ~ Desegregated Stuyvesant Town

Segregation was de jure in the south, de facto in the north.  Mandated in the south and border states, acquiesced in by courts and legislators in the north.  Levittown the archetype of post war suburbs had Caucasian only clauses in the deeds.  ~ gwc
by David Margolick

Lee Lorch, a soft-spoken mathematician whose leadership in the campaign to desegregate Stuyvesant Town, the gargantuan housing development on the East Side of Manhattan, helped make housing discrimination illegal nationwide, died on Friday hospital in Toronto. He was 98.

His daughter, Alice Lorch Bartels, confirmed the death, at a hospital. Mr. Lorch had taught at York University in Toronto, and had lived in Toronto since 1968.
By helping to organize tenants in a newly built housing complex — and then inviting a black family to live in his own apartment — Mr. Lorch played a crucial role in forcing the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which owned the development, to abandon its whites-only admissions policy. His campaign anticipated the sit-ins and other civil rights protests to come.
But Mr. Lorch’s lifelong agitation for racial equality, not just in New York but later in Tennessee and Arkansas, led him into a life of professional turmoil and, ultimately, exile.
In June 1950, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the insurance company’s exclusionary policy. Succumbing to political and economic pressure, Metropolitan Life admitted three black families that year.
But it also moved to evict Mr. Lorch and 34 other protesting tenants. They dug in.
“We had decided — and this was the general feeling on the committee — we weren’t going to go quietly, that we would resist, they’d have to throw us out by force,” Mr. Lorch recalled.

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