Office Of Social Equity
West Chester University
13/15 University Avenue
West Chester, PA 19383
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The Millers Take the Checkered Flag But Their Race Continues
Autoweek magazine’s 50th anniversary special edition in 2008 identified the best 50 car books of the past 50 years considered “essential reading” for auto and motorsport enthusiasts. The list includes Silent Thunder: Breaking Through Cultural, Racial and Class Barriers in Motorsports, (Red Sea Press, 2004), an autobiography by black car racing pioneer Leonard “Len” W. Miller’56. Silent Thunder recounts his lifelong passion for auto racing and the monumental roadblocks he encountered as a northern African American competing in a predominately white all-male sport.
Miller founded and co-owns Miller Racing Group, the first black-owned NASCAR racing team to win a track championship in its history. In the past, his team has been recognized as one of the top 60 teams in the world at the international racing level. Miller was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1976.
Miller’s book inspired a screenplay, co-written with his son, that received fifth prize overall from 1,700 entries in the 2007 American Screenwriters Association International Screenplay competition. As a result, Hollywood called and a major motion picture is now in the pre-production phase at HighRoad Entertainment about the lives of Len, 74, and his wife, Rose Miller’56.
Len and Rose Miller, of Washington Crossing, Bucks County, Pa., have long, distinguished careers as teachers and educators -- in addition to Len’s success as a minority on the professional auto racing circuit. When they met in 1952 as undergraduate education majors, racial discrimination was common on campuses throughout the United States, including West Chester.
“The work of Dr. Martin Luther King had not come about yet so you couldn’t express yourself openly,” Len explains, “but what that experience did for African American students like us was to overachieve. It affected our lives positively.
“We had to do ‘A’ work in order to earn a ‘B’ grade. We had to overcome the system. Most folks our age are retired and their life accomplishments are dated. But, we are doing as much now as we did in 1952 when we were students.”
Rose spent her entire professional career as a teacher, educator and administrator in several New Jersey schools, including the Camden County School District, Lawrence Township Public Schools and West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, retiring as an assistant superintendent of schools.
In 1995, Rose renewed her interest in quilting as a hobby. Today, she is a nationally acclaimed quilting artist with the Friendly Quilters of Bucks County, an African American quilting group. Most recently her work was exhibited at the Mercer Museum in Bucks County.
Len was the first black director of education at Rahway State Prison and the first to introduce black history courses into the United States penal system. He worked in the New Jersey governor’s office overseeing city youth educational programs and was a former senior research scientist at New York University’s Graduate School of Social Work. Len earned master’s degrees from Temple University and the University of Minnesota.
Len recalls numerous discriminatory practices against black students during his college days.
“I had a professor who taught courses in arts and culture announce to the class that ‘colored students automatically get a grade ‘C’ because they haven’t contributed anything to the arts throughout history.’ That institutional experience for four years teaches you to think on your feet and to cope and still get your own way,” he adds.
“At West Chester, the teaching techniques and the English Department were superb, so the positive outweighed the negative,” Len adds. “When we attended, it was the best teaching college on the East Coast. All of our experiences there and the teaching fundamentals helped us to this very day.”