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Louis E. Lomax Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 82-30
The collection was given to the Special Collections in 1981 by his widow, Robinette Lomax. It is not clear why Mrs. Lomax pulled the materials from Hofstra University, where work had gone on to create a Louis E. Lomax Memorial Library Collection after her husband’s death in 1970, to be placed here. However, she did move to Nevada at some point to be closer to relatives. A niece worked at the University of Nevada, Reno for a few years in the 1970s, so she could have been familiar with campus. It may have been for that reason, or at the urging of UNR Political Science professor Elmer Rusco, who had been assembling information about blacks in Nevada.

The Lomax materials include his writings for books, articles, newspapers, and screenplays. There are also scrapbooks, clippings, plaques, recordings, and some ephemera. The books Lomax wrote are available in Special Collections. The collection is organized into 10 series: Series 1: Book Publications; Series 2: Television and Film Scripts, Cartoon Strip; Series 3: Newspaper Columns and Stories; Series 4: Articles; Series 5: Speaking Engagements; Series 6: KTTV Television Show; Series 7: Hofstra University; Series 8: Personal; Series 9: Robinette Kirk Lomax; and Series 10: Recordings. Series 1, 2 and 8 are further divided into subseries.

In Series 1: Book Publications, there is correspondence in Subseries 1 with Harper & Row, one of his book publishers. Lomax often approached the publisher with book ideas. Included are five book titles, only four of which were published. They include: Subseries 2: The Reluctant African; Subseries 3: The Negro Revolt; Subseries 4: Thailand: The War That Is, the War That Will Be; and Subseries 5: To Kill a Blackman: The Shocking Parallel in the Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. For each of these titles, there are various research materials, usually reviews, some correspondence, publicity pieces, and work which Lomax many have completed on a trip to another country. Subseries 6 includes a novel which was under consideration by Harper & Row but not published, The Wheel and the Cistern. Not all of his books are represented in this collection. His 1963 book When the Word is Given, about the death of Malcolm X and upon which he based his movie screenplay “Malcolm X” was not received.

Series 2: Television and Film Scripts, Cartoon Strip is organized into three Subseries: 1) The Hate That Hate Produced; 2) “Malcom X” Film Script; and 3) “Deadline” Cartoon Strip. The Hate That Hate Produced was presented and narrated by Mike Wallace on his “Newsbeat” show in New York as a two-hour, five part series on the Nation of Islam and the “Black Supremacy Movement” in July 1959. He had hired Lomax as a reporter on his show and worked with him on the project after learning about its leaders Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. Lomax wrote the script, co-produced it with Wallace, and was the onscreen reporter. The script included was one presented with additional footage on July 23, one week after the series had aired. The collection does not include any footage of the show.

The “Malcolm X” film script in Series 2, Subseries 2 is a treatment Lomax did for 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation. Lomax used his 1963 book When the Word is Given as the basis for his work and updated it. The materials do not include any correspondence or other information concerning the research he conducted, and the script is not complete.

Series 2, Subseries 3 contains the typed scripts and copies of the cartoon strips which were written by Lomax and drawn by Dan Sherwood for the National News Syndication, Inc. for publication in 1968. The strip tells the story of African-American reporter Ronald Curtis, assigned by World Press Service to infiltrate a ghetto dope ring, set in an unnamed city in the eastern part of the United States. Some similarities to Lomax can be seen in the drawings and the work of the reporter.

Series 3: Newspaper Columns and Stories, contains clippings of the columns Lomax wrote for two newspaper syndicates, the North American Newspaper Alliance and the Bell-McClure Syndicate. Lomax covered a number of cities who were experiencing unrest and wrote about them, including Newark, New Jersey and the riots in Detroit. He wrote about searching for the killer of Martin Luther King by following the same route James Earl Ray took, in order to find clues which the FBI said they had not been able to find. No all of his columns are included.

Series 4: Articles, covers the articles which were published in a variety of popular magazine, such as Life, Harper’s Magazine, Saturday Review, Ebony, Pageant, Newsweek, The Nation, and The Saturday Evening Post. This series is not complete for all of his articles. While at Hofstra University, Lomax was able to verify the date of birth of the first black poet in America, Jupiter Hammon. Information on that finding is included. Many of the articles may be the original typed copies and may not include any citation information on publication.

Series 5: Speaking Engagements, does not do justice to the number of lectures, talks or events which Lomax appeared at as it seems he was on the move across the country and also spoke internationally. This series does contain clippings about his talks, some press releases or flyers about his talks, and some programs from the events. It does not contain any of the speeches Lomax delivered, however many of his speaking engagements were recorded and can be found in Series 10: Recordings.

Series 6: KTTV Television Show, highlights the work Lomax did with Channel 11 in Los Angeles, on his semi-weekly television show, The Louis Lomax Show, from 1966 to 1970. He invited guests to discuss topics of the day, often talking with those either for or against the topic. It was a popular show, and gave Lomax a place to often debate and share his views with those he interviewed to his television audience. In 1967 Lomax, who was concerned about the high rate of unemployment among those in the inner city of Los Angeles and the unrest it could lead to, held a 19-hour “Job-A-Thon” which produced 35,000 jobs for Los Angeles residents. For this work he won an Emmy.

In March 1969, Lomax quit KTTV and his show in order to take a teaching position at Hofstra University in New York. In Series 7: Hofstra University, there are different aspects of what he undertook, who, as a respected national expert on the history and culture of African-Americans due to his writing and public speaking, was asked to incorporate these areas into the school’s curriculum. During his time at teaching at Hofstra it was his aim to put together a three-volume history about black America, which was interrupted by his death in July 1970. Mrs. Lomax worked with the campus to create a Louis E. Lomax Memorial Collection with the aim to comprehensively collect everything about Lomax that could be found.

Series 8: Personal, contains other personal information about Lomax. The series is further divided into these Subseries: 1) Appointment Books; 2) Legal and Financial; 3) Correspondence; 4) Lomax Information; 5) Research Subject Files; 6) Scrapbooks and Clippings on Louis Lomax; and 7) Death of Louis Lomax. His appointment books in Subseries 1 contain scattered information about events and random notes. Lomax was married three times, and Subseries 2 has information about his divorces and other legal problems he encountered, such as his tax evasion indictment in 1970. This subseries also included various contracts he had with publishers or for speaking events or other work. Subseries 3 contains correspondence Lomax had during the years 1963 to 1970. The correspondence is very slim during the early years of the civil rights movement and does not contain any from personages from that time. More of the correspondence concerns Lomax’s speaking engagements and other professional concern.

Series 8, Subseries 4 includes other information about Lomax which could not be included in our series, such things as his honors and other recognitions, information about his trips abroad to Africa and the Middle East, and work on curriculum concerning African-American culture and history. Again, concerned about those in the inner city, he held “Operation Cool-It” which involved getting 20,000 a chance to experience going to Catalina Island during the summer. An unusual habit Lomax had was taking hotel room keys from his travels as souvenirs, so Box 18 contains them, his glasses and case, plus a few other ephemera.

Series 8, Subseries 5: Research Subject Files, contains clippings and other articles Lomax kept in order to have background about various subjects he was interested in knowing more about or which he anticipated needing for his teaching at Hofstra. Always focused in maintaining his own archive of his professional life, Subseries 6: Scrapbooks and Clippings covers the years from 1958 until his death, and can assist with information not found in other sections of this collection. Subseries 7: Death of Louis Lomax, has some information about the car accident in New Mexico and the ensuing funeral service which was held in Los Angeles.

Series 9: Robinette Kirk Lomax, Lomax’s third wife, was shocked by his unexpected death, and pursued a possible conspiracy idea through a court case, suing Ford Motor Company about the car her husband had been driving that day, as well as contacting a psychic for answers. She created a number of ways to continue his legacy, such as a proposed Louis Lomax Chair at the Claremont Colleges in California, as well the work at Hofstra, found in Series 7. This section includes information on her continued work with the Congressional Black Caucus, and about her children from a former marriage.

Series 10: Recordings, covers both audio and 16mm film footage. The audio recordings are mainly on reel-to-reel tapes of his speeches, lectures, and other events across the country. They have not been converted to digital format. The film footage is not clearly identified but most likely covers his visit to the Middle East in 1968, and must have been undertaken as some professional project, possibly for his continued relationship with KTTV in Los Angeles. It is not known if that is the case or if the project was ever completed.

Dates

  • 1943-1972
  • Majority of material found within 1958 - 1970

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Extent

14 Cubic Feet (18 boxes)

Overview

Louis E. Lomax was an African-American author, journalist, and professor best known for his work on race relations in America. He was the author of multiple books and articles, including The Reluctant African (1960), The Negro Revolt (1962), When the Word is Given (1963), and To Kill a Blackman: The Shocking Parallel in the Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (1968). Collection contains writings for his books, articles, newspapers, and screenplays as well as a small amount teaching and personal information.

Biographical Note

Louis E. Lomax was a native of Valdosta, Georgia, born August 16, 1922. His mother, Sarah Louise Lomax, died when he was eight days old, and he was raised by his grandparents, and his grandmother Rozena Lomax became his guardian. At the age of three, his mother’s brother and his wife James L. and Fannie H. Lomax, raised him. He received his undergraduate training at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia and completed a M.A. in Sociology at the American University, Washington, D. C., in 1944, and a M.A. in Philosophy at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut in 1947. Lomax began his professional career as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State College in Savannah.

At the age of 22, Lomax turned to writing. He served as a feature writer for the Afro-American and the Chicago American. He was the first black journalist to be hired by William Randolph Hearst when he went to work for the Chicago American in 1948. His articles appeared in most of the major magazines, including Look, The Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek, Ebony, The Nation, The New Leader, and Harper’s Magazine.

Lomax published a number of books with Harper and Row. His first book, The Reluctant African, won the Saturday Review Annisfield-Wolf Award for 1960. His next book, The Negro Revolt, was considered to be the definitive work on race relations in America, and was translated into many languages and used as a textbook in many schools. His third book, When the Word is Given, written in 1963, was called a classic study of the Black Muslim movement. In 1967 he published Thailand: The War That Is, the War That Will Be with Random House, in which he criticized the U.S. Government for dishonesty and deliberate obfuscation in its handling of the U.S. mission in Vietnam and Thailand. In research for this book Lomax traveled to both countries and supported his assertions with on-the-spot reporting. In 1968 he published To Kill a Blackman: The Shocking Parallel in the Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., in which he looked at the assassinations of both men and the society in which they lived.

Lomax’s popularity as an author gave him the opportunity to appear before different audiences on the lecture circuit to talk about his books as well as other topics of interest which he wrote and spoke about through the years. He was a firm believer in integration. He lectured across America and in Canada. He appeared on many television shows including the Jack Paar Show, the Merv Griffin Show, as well as on broadcast television news.

In 1958 he became the first African–American television journalist when he joined New York’s WNTA-TV, where Mike Wallace worked. When he was working as a journalist he met Wallace who he was supposed to interview for a TV magazine. Wallace was impressed with Lomax and hired him to be one of his special interviewers for his television show. Wallace learned about the Nation of Islam from Lomax, and in 1959 they embarked on a five-part documentary they called The Hate That Hate Produced, in which the viewing public heard about its views from its leader Elijah Muhammad and spokesperson Malcolm X. Lomax wrote the script, co-produced it and was the reporter who conducted the interviews.

Lomax wrote the film script around 1968 for “Malcolm X” based upon his research for his 1963 book When the Word Is Given, which was considered a definitive report on the Back Muslim leadership of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. He updated that research for his film treatment for Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, but the movie was not produced.

Lomax’s writings appeared in newspapers, popular magazines and in other formats. In 1968 he worked with illustrator Dan Sherwood on a series of cartoon strips which were written by Lomax and drawn by Sherwood for the National News Syndication, Inc. He worked with newspaper syndicates the North American Newspaper Alliance and the Bell-McClure Syndicate, writing columns for their readers on a variety of subjects. Usually these topics revolved about the condition of African-Americans and their fight for equality against an established political and economic system, but politicians also came within his crosshairs.

In 1966 Lomax moved to Los Angeles where he hosted a semi-weekly television show on local station KTTV, Channel 11. The show aired every Thursday and Sunday evenings. The format was a discussion about the latest topics and controversies. He also had a daily radio call-in program he called “The World of Louis Lomax” on station KYDAY. He was the 1966 Unity Award winner selected as "the TV-radio personality who made the most valuable contributions to interracial understanding during the year." During his time in Los Angeles before coming to KTTV as a host, he worked on the documentary Walk in My Shoes. He was awarded a $100,000 grant to implement a summer project called "Operation Cool-It" that involved 20,000 Los Angeles youths. In 1967 he was awarded an Emmy for his 19-hour "Job-A-Thon" on KTTV which produced 35,000 jobs for Los Angeles residents, as well as commendations from the city and county of Los Angeles, and the State Legislature.

In 1969 he left Los Angeles and took a job teaching at Hofstra University in Hampstead, New York. He was appointed a visiting professor of humanities and social sciences, where he was to help incorporate Afro-American culture into the total educational program of its student body, both black and white. He also worked with regional school districts and academics to advance that historical understanding.

While on a trip in New Mexico, Lomax died in a car accident on July 30, 1970. Witnesses said he was trying to pass another vehicle on a two-lane road at a high speed and lost control. He was not wearing a seatbelt and died at the scene. His funeral was held in Los Angeles with a memorial also held at Hofstra University. It was a shocking end to a man for whom so many had relied on as being a spokesperson and rational voice for integration during a time of social upheaval in the United States.

Louis Lomax was married three times, first to Betty Frank, with whom he had a son, from 1958-1961. His second marriage was to Wanda Kay in 1961, with whom he was granted a default divorce on April 21, 1967. They had no children. He married Robinette Glivel Kirk in 1968. This was the second marriage for Robinette, who had been an assistant to Lomax during his time in Los Angeles. Lomax was buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Arrangement

Arranged in the following series and subseries: 1) Book Publications; 1.1) Correspondence with Publisher Harper and Row; 1.2) Books: The Reluctant African; 1.3) Books: The Negro Revolt; 1.4) Books: Thailand: The War That Is, the War That Will Be; 1.5) Books: To Kill a Blackman; 1.6) Books: The Wheel and the Cistern; 2) Television and Film Scripts, Cartoon Strip; 2.1) The Hate That Hate Produced; 2.2) “Malcom X” Film Script; 2.3: “Deadline” Cartoon Strip; 3) Newspaper Columns and Stories; 4) Articles; 5) Speaking Engagements; 6) KTTV Television's Louis Lomax Show; 7) Hofstra University; 8) Personal; 8.1) Appointment Books; 8.2) Legal and Financial; 8.3) Correspondence; 8.4) Lomax Information; 8.5) Research Subject Files; 8.6) Scrapbooks and Clippings on Louis Lomax; 8.7) Death of Louis Lomax; 9) Robinette Kirk Lomax; 10) Recordings

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Mrs. Robinette Lomax on January 8, 1981.

Creator

Title
Louis E. Lomax Papers Guide
Status
completed
Author
Jacquelyn Sundstrand
Date
March 2018
Description rules
dacs

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Contact:
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5665
775-682-5724 (Fax)