I happened across the first book by Kenneth D. Miller that I read quite by accident. Doing a deep Google search on Bohemia and immigration I happened to find a reference to a book entitled “The Czecho-Slovaks in America”. It was by an author I was unfamiliar with, Kenneth D. Miller. The forward explained that this book was part of a series called The New American Series. The introduction, penned by Charles Hatch Sears, explained that six manuscripts had been published through the Interchurch World Movement and the Home Missions Council of America and covered Czecho-Slovaks, Greek, Italian, Magyar, Polish, and Russian and each author has had direct and intimate relationship with the people, or group of peoples, presented.” He also explained ‘it was designed that the studies should be sympathetic, but critical’ and ‘were undertaken to show, in brief outline, the social, economic, and religious background, European or Asiatic, of each group and to present the experience – social, economic and religious – of the particular group in America”.
I dug into the references to the book and decided that it looked like something I should read. I appreciated his insights and he seemed to have quite an affinity for his subject matter. So I read the first book, liked it so well, I scrounged used book stores until I found an original copy (I have a ‘thing’ against print-on-demand copies, due to several serious quality issues).
I soon discovered that he also wrote a book titled “Peasant Pioneers” in 1925. In this book I found, on the front leaf a brief biography of the author. It immediately spoke to me as to why I liked Miller’s work. It states as follows:
“The Rev. Kenneth D. Miller has devoted thirteen years to service to the Slavic peoples. He prepared especially for this work by spending a year in Czechoslovakia as an “Immigrant Fellow” of the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. During this time he studied the Czech language, acquainted himself with the political, economic, and religious backgrounds of the people. Upon his return to this country he was associated for five years with the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church of New York City, being in charge of the social and religious work of its Neighborhood House. From 1917 to 1919 Mr. Miller was in charge of the Y.M.C.A. work among the Czechoslovak troops in Russia and Siberia. Subsequently Mr. Miller has been connected with immigrant work of the Presbyterian Board of the National Missions,and int hat capacity has visited all of the outstanding Slavic colonies of America. In 1921 he again visited Czechoslovakia and the other countries of central Europe on behalf of the relief work for the Protestant churches of Europe.”
The man lived Czech interests.
Once again, I enjoyed the insights and information that was presented by author Miller. This got me thinking ….. who is this fellow and what led him to his obvious commitment to the study of our Czech immigrants? I especially wanted to learn more about author Miller as I had
This inquiry led me to the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) located at the University of Minnesota. The more I looked into the Center, the more I found. It wasn’t long in my searching there that I came to find a newly printed (2010) memoir by author Miller himself entitled “Uncle from America” that while written by the author was a collaborative publishing effort by his children, nephew, and the IHRC, which holds his personal archives.
The forward, written by Kenneth Dexter Miller, Jr. and Elizabeth Miller Hiteshew, author Miller’s children, explains that Kenneth Miller truly devoted his life to the Czech people! The words from his memorial service left me in awe of the man and his commitment. Such committment, such love, and such compassion for Czechs of all walks of life. He cared about and focused on everyone from the President of then-Czechoslovakia, T. G. Masaryk to those who called home the Jan Hus Neighborhood House in New York City. His time with the Czechoslovak Legion during their fighting in Russia is fascinating!
You can find the manuscript for “Uncle From America” online. It is a very interesting book to read. I enjoy reading books that reflect the thoughts and times of their authors. This is certainly one of them and while Reverend Miller may have been a man of the cloth of the Presbyterian Church, he is most decidedly ecumenical in his outlook. He, unlike some authors like Jan Habenicht who let his prejudice for those of the Roman Catholic faith taint his work author Miller does no such thing and even admits to the reasons for the rise of Freethinkers in America. I will warn readers that some of his descriptions of the Concentration Camps were disturbing to me, but then again, we all need to be reminded every so often of the horrors that truly were these horrendous places.
If you want an interesting look at the Czech immigrants of the 1920’s across America, I fully endorse the time you will spend reading author Miller’s works.
I consider it time well spent for me for certain as I gained excellent insight into this time period and the Czech immigrants of the early 1900’s.