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RG 30/23 - Herbert A. Miller (1875-1951)

Herbert A. MillerHerbert Adolphus Miller was born in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire on June 5, 1875, the son of William Magnus and Ellen Thompson Miller. He remained in New Hampshire for his education, earning both his B.A. (1899) and his M.A. (1902) at Dartmouth College. During 1899-1902 he served as an instructor in Greek and Latin at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He then returned to New England to pursue graduate studies in psychology and philosophy at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). He completed his Ph.D. in 1905.

From 1905-07, H.A. Miller served as an assistant professor of sociology and philosophy at Olivet College (Olivet, Michigan) and from 1907-14 as professor of sociology. During 1911, he engaged in post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago. For the next ten years (1914-24), he served Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio) as professor of sociology.

During these years, Professor Miller, who taught a course titled “The Immigrant,” became an active leader in the causes of immigrants in America and of developing Central-European nations. In 1915, with support from the Russell Sage Foundation, he studied the status of immigrants in the Cleveland, Ohio school system. His findings and recommendations resulted in major changes in immigrant education both in Cleveland and throughout the country. They were also the basis for his book, The School and the Immigrant (1916). In 1917, Professor Miller became chief of the Division on Immigrant Heritages for the Carnegie Corporations. In 1921, together with Professor Robert E. Park (d. 1944) of the University of Chicago, he published the results of the research on methods of Americanization in Old World Traits Transplanted. During 1918, Professor Miller spent two weeks at Camp Sherman, a draft camp in Chillicothe, Ohio, explaining the causes of the war to foreign-born men and exploring their feelings. His success in convincing these men to stay in the army greatly improved the morale at the camp and saved the United States Government over a quarter of a million dollars.

During 1915-18, Professor Miller became a friend and executive secretary to Thomas G. Masaryk (d. 1937), then a member of the Vienna Parliament. Together, in 1918, they drafted the Pittsburgh Constitution on which the new Czechoslovak nation was founded. They were both active in the formation of the Mid-European Union (1918) which developed from a victory meeting of oppressed nations held at Carnegie Hall in New York City on September 15, 1918. The resolutions drafted by Professor Miller and adopted by the assembly were presented to President Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) on September 20. The outcome was the creation of the Union “to resolve mutual differences and to solve common problems” (Hinman). Thomas Masaryk, now head of the new Czechoslovak nation, became President and H.A. Miller, the only American member, Director, a position he assumed while on leave from Oberlin College. In this role, Professor Miller set out to establish a chain of small nations and became known as the “Nation-Maker" of World War I.

Professor Miller continued to teach at Oberlin College and at the University of California (summer 1922) until 1924 when he published Races Nations and Classes. That same year, he was hired by The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) to teach race relations and nationalism. He became chair of the Sociology Department in 1925. That same year he traveled in Europe, Russia, and the Near East. During 1929-30, he traveled extensively in Asia, studying national movements in China and India. While in China he gave courses at Yenching University and lectured at other universities in China, India, and Syria. During his stay of several months in India, he met with Mohandas Ghandi several times and discussed non-violence and Indian independence. On March 12, 1930, Professor Miller spoke to a group of Hindus gathered in Bombay on the eve of Ghandi’s “salt march.” On learning of his remarks, President Rightmire and the Board of Trustees at The Ohio State University interpreted them as inciting Indians to disobey Great Britain, a friend to the United States, and the University’s Board voted to dismiss Professor Miller.

The academic freedom case received extensive American and foreign coverage. Fifty-four members of the Oberlin College faculty and fifty-two at Harvard sent letters to The Ohio State University administration, protesting the violation of Professor Miller’s rights to free inquiry and speech. The administration replied that the Bombay speech itself was not the only deciding factor in the dismissal, noting that since 1927 parents and other members of the academic community had complained about Professor Miller’s liberal views on race and domestic relations. In addition, they pointed out that he had offended an audience in Korea, necessitating his removal by the Japanese police, and that he had tried to conceal the inflammatory nature of the Bombay speech when reporting to them. In fact, they explained, even before the speech, they had voted not to extend his appointment beyond 1931. It was widely believed that Professor Miller’s constant and vocal opposition to the compulsory military training at The Ohio State University was another factor in his dismissal. After investigating the case, a committee of the American Association of University Professors did not see Miller’s Bombay speech as offensive or undiplomatic. AAUP concluded: “The facts in this case are eloquent. Professor Miller is entirely vindicated, though not thereby restored to his position, and the right of free speech in universities is a little safer than it was before” (AAUP, Bulletin, 18:16 [October 1931]: 443-73).

In 1931, Professor Miller returned to Oberlin where he spent his time in research and writing. During the summer of 1932, he lectured on social economics at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois). His book, The Beginnings of Tomorrow, was published in 1933, the same year he joined the faculty of Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania) where he taught until he retired in 1940. That summer, Professor Miller again worked with and for new immigrants, serving as head instructor at a seminar convened in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, its faculty sought to assist European scholars and professional men, recently driven from their homelands by the Nazi purge of intellectuals, to acquire a working knowledge of the language and customs in America. Then followed two years of visiting professorships: at Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) in 1940-41 and at Beloit College (Beloit, Wisconsin) in 1941-42. Professor Miller subsequently settled in Black Mountain, North Carolina and taught at Black Mountain College until 1947.

Herbert Adolphus Miller died in Asheville, North Carolina on May 6, 1951.

Throughout his career, Professor Miller was active in professional and civic organizations: the American Sociological Society; the Ohio Academy of Social Science; and, the American Academy of Political and Social Science. He also served on the Ohio Committee of Penal Conditions, for which he acted as chairman (n.d.). In addition to his books, he wrote numerous articles on social, national, and international issues and was in constant demand as a speaker on these topics. For his work on preparing its constitution, the new state of Czechoslovakia awarded him the Emblem of the White Lion (n.d.). In 1950, the government of Korea recognized his services in the cause of Korean freedom and independence with the Taiguk Decoration, the highest honor bestowed on foreign citizens.

On August 22, 1903, H.A. Miller married Elizabeth Northway Cravath, the daughter of Ruth Anna Jackson (Lit. 1858) and Erastus Milo Cravath (A.B. 1875; sem. 1860; A.M. 1860), the first President of Fisk University (Nashville, Tennessee). The Millers adopted two children: Maurice Cravath (OC, 1931-32) and Gustava Cravath (Mrs. Allen Coleman Brown). Professor Miller’s sister, Eunice Anna Miller, a prominent social worker in Massachusetts, graduated from Oberlin College (A.B. 1904).

Sources Consulted
Faculty file of H.A. Miller (RG 28/3).
Oberlin College Seal -