Fonds F0524 - Lee Lorch fonds

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Lee Lorch fonds

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Dates of creation area


  • 1935-2007, 1950-1995 predominant (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

14.08 m of textual material
ca. 123 photographs : col. and b&w ; 24 x 15 cm and smaller.
ca. 40 negatives : col. and b&w ; 35 mm.
ca. 5 posters : col. and b&w ; 90 x 60 cm and smaller.

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Lee Lorch (20 September 1915-28 February 2014), a mathematician and social activist, is best known for his involvement in the civil rights movement in the United States to desegregate housing and schooling and improve educational opportunities for women and visual minorities, as well as his political persecution by members of the House Committee of Un-American Activities. Lorch was dismissed or forced to resign from various academic positions during the 1950s due to his social activism and Communist sympathies.

Born in New York City, Lorch attended Cornell University and later the University of Cincinnati, where he obtained his MA (1936) and PhD (1941) in mathematics. From 1942-1943, Lorch worked as a mathematician for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. He married Grace Lonergan, a Boston area school teacher on 24 December 1943. During World War II, Lorch served in the U.S. Army, working in India and the Pacific. After 1946, the couple eventually settled in New York City with their young daughter in Stuyvesant Town, a private planned housing community whose tenants were veterans. Lorch, by then Assistant Professor at the City College of New York, petitioned the developer, Metropolitan Life, to allow African-Americans to rent units. In 1949, pressure from Metropolitan Life led to Lorch's dismissal from City College. When the family moved so Lorch could teach at Penn State College, they allowed a black family, the Hendrixes, to occupy the apartment in violation of the housing policy. Under pressure, Penn State College dismissed Lorch in April 1950, after which he was hired as Associate Professor at Fisk University, a historically-black institution in Nashville, TN. He became full Professor and Department Chair of Mathematics in 1953. In response to the Brown vs Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Lorches attempted to enroll their daughter in the closest high school to their home in 1954, which previously had been all-black. As a result, Lorch was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in September of 1954, where he refused to testify regarding his political affiliations and civil rights activities. Under pressure from its white-dominated board of directors, Fisk University fired Lorch in 1955.

The family moved to Little Rock, AK, where Lorch found work at Philander Smith College. On 4 September 1957, during the Little Rock Central High School Crisis, Grace Lorch intervened to protect Elizabeth Eckford (one of the "Little Rock Nine") from an angry white mob. In October Mrs. Lorch was subpoenaed to appear before the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (chaired by Mississippi Senator James Eastland). After receiving death threats and finding dynamite in the family's garage door, Lorch resigned from Philander Smith College.

After working as a visiting lecturer at Wesleyan University, Lorch was hired in 1959 by the University Alberta. In 1968, Lorch was hired by York University, where he remained until his official retirement in 1985. Lorch worked throughout the 1960s and 1970s to develop contacts between western and Eastern Bloc mathematicians. He continued to advocate for the rights of women and minorities, particularly within the academic and scientific sphere, and was one of the first academics to challenge mandatory retirement in Canada.

Lee Lorch has contributed to the study of the order of magnitude and asymptotic expansion of the Lebesgue constants for various expansions. In partnership with Peter Szego, he also started a new field of study, analyzing the higher monotonicity properties of Sturm-Liouville functions. Lorch was active in various community, political and professional organizations, including the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian and American Mathematical Societies, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Lorch passed away on 28 February 2014.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of Professor Lorch's professorial and personal papers as a mathematician, academic, civil rights activist and humanitarian. Records document his life in all these spheres and include the following: correspondence from family, friends, academic colleagues and fellow activists; records of his legal battles at various colleges and universities in the defence of civil rights and academic freedom including challenges from the House Committee on Un-American Activities; records that document his and his wife's activism in landmark American events such as the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1954, and the fight for equal rights for blacks in housing in US cities; professorial records and his work as a respected mathematician and scholar; and related books, journals and pamphlets accumulated by him during his decades of work in these areas. Records have been arranged by the archivist into the following series.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Lee Lorch in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Donated by Alice Bartels in 2013.


(RAD 1.8B13) Note on Arrangement. Accession 2007-054 includes material from Lorch's York University office, as well as files from his home office.
(RAD 1.8B13) Note on Arrangement. Accession 2009-027 includes materials donated from Lorch's home, including a large assortment of photographs.
(RAD 1.8B13) Note on Arrangement. Accessions 2010-023 and 2010-041 were sorted by a third party prior to donation based on subject matter.

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • Hungarian
  • Russian

Script of material

  • Cyrillic
  • Latin

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

File 2007-054/070(012)is closed until thirty years after death of correspondents.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

Some material digitized and available at .

Related materials


The fonds comprises the following accessions: 2007-054, 2009-027, 2010-023, 2010-041, 2013-028. Further accruals may be expected.

General note

Finding aid may contain language from the era in which it was written. This includes historical, unclear, or biased terminology which may not have been selected by Indigenous peoples. To learn more about historical and contemporary terminology, see resources listed at

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

2008/11/10 Anna St.Onge:. (Creation)
2008/11/10 Awaiting review by the Data Collection Archivist
2009/01/19 Anna St.Onge. Expanded photographic extent from ca. 100 to ca.120. Expanded biographical sketch and tightened up paragraphs.
2009/02/02 Dubeau. Added URL for online finding aid. To do: include some reference to the pamphlet collection? Scope and content work needs additional info.
2011/09/02 Anna St.Onge. Added links to Accession 2010-041. Updated arrangement note to reflect that third party 'sorted' Lorch's papers for him before deposit. Added to extents of textual material (12.06 m to 14.08 m ) Added to extents on photographs (120 to 123) on fonds level. Added to extent for graphic material (posters)
2011/09/02 Anna St.Onge. Revised textual extent to accommodate Accessions 2009-027 (additional 2.7 metres of text) and 2010-023 (additional 2.66 metres) Revised photographic extents to accommodate Accession 2009-027 (additional 2000+ photographs). Clarified scope note to confirm that the archivist determined series.
2012/03/01 Anna St.Onge. Updated biographical sketch. Grace Lorch was called before Mississippi Senator James Eastland's United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.
2014/03/02 Anna St.Onge. Included death dates (based on NYT article) of 28 February 2014. Added links to recent accessions. (2013-028)
2015/01/01. Anna St.Onge. Updated authority records on key figures/popular celebrities, made minor adjustments to key file-level descriptions, deleted accession record stubs and published.
2017/08/03. Anna St.Onge. Updated subject headings.
2020/10/28 KCP. Added historical language note.

Language of description

  • English


Accession area