WACO, Texas (Feb. 13, 2019) - Doris Miller, a native of Waco and the son of sharecroppers, paved the way for the desegregation of the United States Navy due to his bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor. On Feb. 20, The Texas Collection at Baylor University will host a book lecture about Doris Miller titled "On Changing Tides: Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Civil Rights Movement," featuring Dr. T Michael Parrish of the Baylor University Department of History. The event starts at 6 p.m. in Foster 250 at the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation and is free to the public.
The lecture is based on Dr. Parrish's book, "Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement." Published in 2017 by Texas A&M University Press, Dr. Parrish and Dr. Thomas Cutrer of Arizona State University wrote the book to highlight the importance of Miller's courageous acts and their relation to the nascent civil rights movement. Dr. Parrish's lecture will go into further detail about Miller's impact on the Navy, the country and the world.
"Doris Miller's importance as a war hero is well-documented," said Interim Dean of University Libraries John Wilson, "but what isn't as well-known is his importance to the movement to desegregate the armed forces and to the greater Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Parrish's talk will bring a new appreciation for how Miller's heroism was displayed both in a time of battle and after his death."
In a time when African Americans who enlisted in the Navy were restricted to jobs as steward's mates, Miller was a messman on the USS West Virginia and was stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. During the invasion, Miller brought injured men to safety, including the captain of the ship, and fired at Japanese planes with an anti-aircraft gun. Miller was recognized for his bravery and became the first African American to receive the Navy Cross, one of the highest honors in the Navy. Miller's actions were also noticed by the country and in turn brought attention to discrimination and segregation in the nation's armed forces.
"An ordinary African American sailor, Doris Miller showed extraordinary heroism at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941," said Dr. Parrish. "But he was far more than a hero. He was a crucial catalyst to the modern civil rights movement, inspiring a gigantic push to eliminate racial discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces and establish true equality throughout American society and politics."
Miller's impact carries on to this day, especially in his hometown of Waco. On Dec. 7, 2018, the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Doris Miller memorial was dedicated on the banks of the Brazos River with Miller's relatives in attendance. Dec. 7 was also declared "Doris Miller Day" in Waco.
"The Texas Collection is excited to have noted historian Dr. Michael Parrish lecture about World War II hero and native Wacoan Doris Miller," said Associate Director of the Texas Collection Amie Oliver. "All are invited to attend and learn more about Miller's life and legacy."
A reception and book signing will follow the lecture, along with the opportunity to purchase the book from the Baylor Bookstore. For more information about the event, visit https://www.baylor.edu/library/events.