Herbert Adolphus Miller
Negley K. Teeters
In Black Mountain, North Carolina, on May 7, the eminent sociologist, Herbert Adolphus Miller, died after a long illness. Thus death brought to an end a distinguished triumvirate of pioneer scholars whose field was racial and minority groups—W. I. Thomas, Robert E. Park, and Herbert A. Miller.
Herbert Adolphus Miller was born at Tuftonboro, New Hampshire June 5, 1875. His mother was of Welsh origin, his father a Swede. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1899 with honors in philosophy. While at Dartmouth he had a course in ethnology and sociology with David Collins Wells, one of the first teachers of sociology in this country. The course in ethnology strongly emphasized the classification of races into superior and inferior. Upon graduation Miller accepted a position at Fisk University where he was engaged to teach Greek and athletics. He stated in later life that while at Fisk he became convinced that Keane's Ethnology was wrong. Years later he became a trustee of Fisk University.
After three years at Fisk, Professor Miller went to Harvard to study philosophy with the idea that ethics and psychology formed the proper approach to a scientific study of the problem of race. While at Harvard he studied with Josiah Royce and William James. At the suggestion of Professor R. M. Yerkes, and with money raised by William James, he devised a series of intelligence tests and gave them to Negro and white students in the South. The white students were in mountain schools that represented a more comparable environment with that of the Negroes. He also gave the tests to several hundred Indians at Hampton Institute and Carlisle Indian School.
After receiving his Doctor's degree at Harvard in 1905, the title of his dissertation being "Psycho-Physics and the Race Problem," Miller went to Olivet College in Michigan where he taught philosophy and sociology for ten years. In 1911 he first met W. I. Thomas. He felt that Thomas' point of view regarding race represented his own and, accordingly, went to the University of Chicago for the summer and autumn quarters. It was at this time that he became acquainted with the Bohemian, or Czech, immigrants whose background and national aspirations intrigued him throughout the remainder of his professional life. During the summer of 1912 he visited Bohemia with a large delegation of Sokol gymnasts. He immediately met Professor John Masaryk who taught sociology at Charles University in Prague. Professor Miller also visited Poland, Russia, and Finland. As early as 1912 he prepared a paper for the American Sociological Society in which he prophesied that the growing nationalism of dominated peoples throughout Europe would make war inevitable.
In 1914 Professor Miller went to Oberlin College to teach sociology. He remained there until 1924 when he accepted a position at Ohio State University.
In 1915 he was asked by the Russell Sage Foundation, then making a survey of the schools of Cleveland, Ohio, to make a report on The School and the Immigrant. This was published in 1916.
In 1917 he was asked by the Carnegie Corporation to assist in making a study of the methods of teaching Americanization. Others who worked on this study were Thomas and Park. It resulted in the publication of the book Old World Traits Transplanted bearing the names of Park & Miller.
During World War I Professor Miller was called to Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio, to advise the commanding general concerning the disposition of thousands of "alien enemies," members of nationality groups whose countries were at war with the United States. Due to his interpretive analysis before the officers of this cantonment, the government initiated a policy of recognizing the war aims of these dominated peoples.
During the war also he was the guiding American in founding the Mid-European Union and in engineering the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia in 1918. He worked with both President Masaryk and Ignace Paderewski, first president of Poland.
In 1924 Professor Miller published his best-known work Races, Nations, and Classes, in which he developed his concepts of vertical and horizontal groupings and the oppression psychosis as applied to minority groups.
During his sojourn at Ohio State University (1924-1931) he went to India to observe Gandhi's passive resistance campaign. At one
(564) of the open meetings in Bombay Professor Miller made a short speech that aroused the trustees of Ohio State University to a point that they refused to renew his contract. Another complaint of the trustees was that Professor Miller did not condemn students of his Race Problems course for dancing with colored students while on a visit to Wilberforce University in Ohio. The American Association of University Professors made an investigation and subsequently exonerated Professor Miller, and as a result Ohio State University was for several years placed on that organization's list of censured universities.
The next two years after leaving Ohio State University Professor Miller traveled, lectured, and wrote The Beginnings of Tomorrow. This work was published in 1933. In that year he was offered a position at Bryn Mawr College where he remained until the age of retirement in 1940. Subsequently he taught various semesters at Temple University, Pennsylvania State College, and Beloit College. In January 1943 he went to Black Mountain College where he remained until September 1947; thus Professor Miller rounded out seven years after formal retirement.
During the summers of 1940-1943 Professor Miller directed the "American Seminar for Refugee Scholars" under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. Hundreds of newly arrived European scholars received their first real impressions of democracy, as well as the fundamentals of English as it is spoken here, at these camps in New Hampshire. Professor Miller often remarked that this period was one of the most interesting of his entire life.
Herbert Adolphus Miller was a kindly man. He loved teaching as few men do. He found good in everyone. He inspired not only good scholars but also hundreds of average students who literally found themselves in the study of sociology as interpreted by him. He was a real friend of members of all minority groups. At one time he taught a semester at Yenching University in Peking and had a host of friends among Chinese intellectuals as well as among the common people of that great country. Not a few of his students later traveled across the world to visit him in his home.
It would be difficult to appraise Professor Miller's many contributions to the field of sociology. He was a teacher, a social philosopher, and a crusader in the area of international co-operation. Because of his contributions in this latter area he was the recipient of awards from President Eduard Benes of Czechoslovakia and Syngman Rhee of Korea.
His great contribution during the period just prior to the armistice in World War I represents something unique. He worked close to diplomats and statesmen and even discussed the policy of self-determination of dominated peoples with President Woodrow Wilson. His unpublished memoirs of that period make fascinating reading, especially in the light of the tragic era that led to World War II and the travail of the United Nations.
He is survived by his wife, Bessie Cravath Miller, who resides in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
NEGLEY K. TEETERS