To most people the name Lee Lorch does not mean much. However to anyone studying the history of desegregation in New York City, Dr. Lee Lorch is a name worth remembering. Today Dr. Lorch is 95 years old and lives in Toronto. But back in 1949 he was among the first tenants in the experimental housing project built to anchor the middle class to the city’s interior, Stuyvesant Town. Despite a struggle to end discrimination against renting to non-whites which was led by Dr. Lorch back in 1949, the state Supreme Court decided that a private landlord had a right to reject a tenant based solely on his race. Privately owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the pressure from the struggle forced Met Life to drop the “No Negroes Allowed” policy from the books. The battle was also the inspiration for other similar struggles to desegregate housing all over the country, making it illegal in most places.
The struggle also had a serious effect on the life of Dr. Lorch, a mathematician who is still writing scholarly articles for mathematics journals. Due to his activism 60 years ago in the fight against segregation, he was fired from a series of teaching jobs and finally was forced to leave his hometown of New York, and the country, and move to Toronto to find suitable employment.
“It was a landmark in the struggle against segregation in this country” Dr. Lorch said. “I thought then, and still do, that it was an important struggle worth any sacrifice in pursuing it. I have no regret over what we did, or what it cost us, although I much preferred living in my hometown.”