Loren Miller: Overturning Racially Restrictive Housing Laws

Crenshaw Manor, like many other neighborhoods built from 1935 to 1947, was built as a “covenant” or whites-only neighborhood. The discriminatory and unconstitutional racially restrictive covenants were often codified and promoted by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and led to housing segregation and the ghettoization of non-white Americans. So what, or in this case who, happened to bring an end to these practices to enable Crenshaw Manor to become one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in the world? Enter fellow Los Angeleno, Loren Miller.

Loren Miller was born in the midwest to a former slave and a woman of Dutch ancestry. He studied law and moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where, through his incisive journalism, he began to bring attention and criticism to polices and practices that discriminated against African Americans. After joining the California State Bar, he began representing a variety of clients in housing discrimination cases, helping many low income people as well as representing celebrities like Hattie McDaniel and others.

Miller became a well-know spokesman for the rights of minorities to enjoy equal access to housing and education. Though his career included many celebrated victories for civil rights, his most famous case was Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948, in which the Supreme Court decided that racial covenants on property cannot be enforced in by the courts. Then later, as West Coast cochair of the legal committee of the NAACP, he became the first U.S. lawyer to win an unqualified verdict outlawing residential restrictive covenants in real estate sales that involved FHA or VA financing.

As this new year begins (2018) it’s good to look back with gratitude to those who have enabled Crenshaw Manor to enjoy its culturally rich and diverse present. A photo of Miller and other related works are currently on display at the Huntington Library. You can also learn more by visiting his wikipedia page.

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