Monday, November 7, 2016

Kenneth Mills, Philosopher of the Struggle for Liberation

Kenneth Ian Leighton Mills (b. June 14, 1931; d. January 31, 1983) was a Trinidadian and British philosopher who was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His parents were Horace Eugene Leighton Mills and Muriel Mills (née Hinkson). He left Trinidad in 1956 to study at University College London, where he was awarded a first-class honors degree in philosophy in 1962, which earned him a scholarship to Oxford, where he received a bachelor of philosophy (BPhil) degree in philosophy in 1964. His future wife Marie Therese Mills (née Barratt) left Trinidad a year after him to join him in London, and they were married in London in May 1957. However, they separated in 1962-1963, and Therese returned to Trinidad in 1964 to raise their two young daughters and son. She raised their children as a single mother, and she and Ken were later divorced.
      Therese Mills (b. December 14, 1928; d. January 1, 2014) was born in Port of Spain, and attended Providence Girls Catholic School. When she was 17 years old, she became a library assistant and reporter for the Port-of-Spain Gazette, and she continued working there for 11 years. After leaving for England, where she married Ken Mills and gave birth to their children, she returned to Trinidad in 1964 to work for the Trinidad Guardian, where she was a senior writer and reporter from 1964-1970. She became news editor of the Sunday Guardian from 1970-1978, and then its editor from 1979-1990. She became editor-in-chief of the Trinidad Guardian in 1989, the first woman to hold such a post at a national newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. After her retirement from the Trinidad Guardian in 1993, she became founding editor-in-chief of Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. She wrote several children’s books, and also wrote a memoir entitled Byline: The Memoirs of Therese Mills (2016), published after her death and edited by her daughter Suzanne. She was the recipient of two national awards for her contributions to journalism: the Hummingbird Medal in 1987, and the Chaconia Medal in 2012. She was also awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University of the West Indies in 2012.1,2,3
      In March 1960, Ken Mills was among a group of student protesters who were arrested outside the South African Embassy in London during demonstrations against the South African apartheid regime. (On March 21, 1960, the South African police had killed 69 black protesters in Sharpeville, South Africa, in an event that came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre.) He was released after a night in custody, and charges against him were subsequently dismissed.4
      In 1964, Kenneth Mills was recruited by Stanford University for a teaching position in the philosophy department. His previous arrest at the South African Embassy complicated his efforts to obtain a visa to the U.S., and in order to obtain a visa, he had to swear that he had never been a Communist (which in fact he never was). His visa also stipulated that he leave the U.S. after two years. He became an assistant professor of philosophy at Stanford from 1964-1966, and he then went to Canada, where he taught at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, from 1966-1968. In 1968, he was recruited by Yale University for a professorship, and with Yale's help was able to obtain a new visa to the U.S. He became an assistant professor of philosophy at Yale in the fall of 1968. 
Keith Lowe of the English department, and Kenneth Mills (in the background) of the philosophy department, during an anti-war protest in White Memorial Plaza at Stanford University, January 31, 1966. Copyright 2016 The Stanford Daily, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

     At Stanford, Ken Mills had become involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement (The Stanford Daily, on May 17, 1965, reported that he was among the speakers at a Viet Nam “teach-in” that day,5 and on Feb, 24, 1966, reported that he was among the speakers at a symposium on Vietnam that day at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California6), and he continued his political activism at Yale.
      He published a long article in the journal Inquiry (1968), entitled “Towards a Phenomenology of Morals,” which was written while he was at the University of Alberta, shortly before he came to Yale. The article questions whether there can be any logical or semantic tests for distinguishing moral from non-moral language, and it argues that “the search for some semantic characteristic that moral judgments have in common not only restricts the scope of ethics to no good purpose, but…also fails to shed light on certain English sentences which are genuinely problematic from the point of view of theory of meaning.”7 He describes the artificiality of limiting ethics to the study of the logical properties of moral words or sentences,8 and he explains that philosophical attention to problems of meaning has focused not as much on the possibility of giving an account of the meaning of putative moral judgments (“M judgments”) as on (1) establishing a clear distinction between indicative and non-indicative language, (2) showing that moral language is a form of non-indicative language, (3) giving an account of M judgments that preserves the indicative-non-indicative distinction (but, contra verificationism, does not have the consequence of making moral language vacuous), and (4) observing the fact-value distinction.9
      Ken lived in an apartment at Yale’s Branford College, and he taught a seminar at Branford entitled “Revolution” in 1968-1969. He also taught a course entitled “Politics and Aesthetics” in 1968-1969.
      Lawrence Lifschultz, who was a member of the Yale College Class of 1973, and who later became a journalist and international news correspondent, says, in describing a seminar of Ken's at which the economist Paul Sweezy spoke, that "I first heard Paul speak at Yale in 1969 at a seminar led by Ken Mills, a young philosophy professor. The seminar room was much too small for the size of the crowd that turned up and we shifted to the larger Branford College Common Room. Shortly afterwards, I was asked by Ken Mills to summarize those chapters from [Paul Sweezy and Paul Barran's] Monopoly Capital which centered on the stagnation thesis. It was my first encounter with the [Marxist] concept of 'capital overaccumulation.'"10
      In 1969, Ken was among the leaders of a movement that included the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the “Branford Liberation Front,” the Coalition for a New University (CNU), and other groups protesting the presence of the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) on campus.11
      The anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the student protest movement had a powerful impact on U.S. colleges and universities in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
      In March 1969, eight civil rights activists known as the “Chicago Eight” were indicted on charges of conspiring to incite a riot, as a result of the disturbances that took place outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The eight defendants were: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale. Bobby Seale requested that his trial be postponed, so that his lawyer, Charles Garry, could recover from surgery, but the judge who was hearing the case, Judge Julius Hoffman, refused his request, and he also refused his request to act as his own attorney. When Seale continued to protest this denial of his legal rights, Judge Hoffman accused him of disrupting the trial and ordered him bound, gagged, and chained to a chair as the trial continued. Hoffman subsequently sentenced Seale to four years in prison for contempt of court, and he ordered his case to be severed from the cases of the other seven defendants, who came to be known as the “Chicago Seven.”
      Bobby Seale was a co-founder of the Black Panther Party. While he was serving his four-year sentence for contempt of court, he was charged in New Haven, Connecticut with conspiracy to murder a fellow Panther, Alex Rackley, who had been killed by three other Panthers for allegedly being a police informant. The New Haven Black Panther trials began in May of 1970. There was widespread public concern, however, about whether Bobby Seale could get a fair trial.
      On April 21, 1970, 4500 Yale students attended a meeting at Ingalls Rink to discuss proposals for a student strike in order to express solidarity with the defendants at the New Haven Panther trial. Among the speakers at the meeting were Black Panther Chief of Staff David Hilliard, and Yale assistant professor of philosophy Kenneth Mills. Nine of Yale’s twelve residential colleges voted to strike.12
      On April 30, 1970, 2500 Yale students attended a rally at Ingalls Rink and listened to plans for the May Day student strike. William Farley (Class of 1972) and Kurt Schmoke (Class of 1971) chaired the meeting, and the featured speakers included John Froines of the Chicago Seven, Doug Miranda of the Black Panthers, and Kenneth Mills, assistant professor of philosophy. The Yale Daily News, reported on April 30, 1970 that “Mills received the greatest applause of the evening. Discussing the importance of continuing the strike after the weekend, Mills said, 'We aren’t going back. We want to see justice done.' Over half the audience rose to applaud Mills. Mills said, 'There is one clear and simple demand—that is, free Bobby, free the Panthers.' He warned earlier, 'We are not going to tolerate the lynching of the Panthers in New Haven.' He urged the audience to ‘forget your semantic distinctions on the demands and start dealing with the issues.’”13 He also spoke of the importance of non-violence.
      At a rally on the New Haven Green on the afternoon of May 1, 1970, approximately 10,000 people gathered to listen to such speakers as David Hilliard, Abbie Hofmann, David Dellinger, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Kenneth Mills, and the French writer Jean Genet. Despite the peaceful quality of the afternoon, confrontations between police and demonstrators occurred that evening, leading to the use of tear gas by police and the arrests of 17 demonstrators.

Kenneth Mills, addressing the crowd on the New Haven Green, May 1, 1970. Copyright 2016 Yale Daily News Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

      On the night of April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon delivered a televised speech to the nation announcing that U.S. troops were going to invade Cambodia. On May 2, protesters burned down the ROTC building at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and on May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State during student demonstrations. On the night of May 14, 1970, police and state troopers fired into a crowd of protesters at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi, killing two students. Protests and student strikes erupted at hundreds of university and college campuses across the country.
      The jury in the New Haven Panther trials was unable to reach a verdict in Bobby Seale’s case, and the charges against him were dropped, He was eventually released from prison in 1972.
      Bright College Years” (1971) is a film documentary by director Peter Rosen about the May Day 1970 events in New Haven. At 8:57 of the film, there’s a brief video recording of Kenneth Mills delivering a speech to a crowd of students at Ingalls Rink. At 34:29 of the film, there’s a brief recording of him delivering a speech on May Day at the New Haven Green.
      On May 6, 1970, Ken and Roy Bryce-Laporte, director of Yale's African-American Studies Program, led a workshop entitled "Liberation and What We Can Do" at Yale's Morse College, and later that same day Ken and Margaret Leslie from United Newhallville, a community organization in New Haven, led a workshop entitled "Yale and the Community," at Branford Dining Hall.14
      On May 22, 1970, Ken Mills and Murray Kempton were the featured speakers at an anti-war program sponsored by students at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.
      Ken and two other Yale faculty members, Adam Perry of the Classics Department, and Peter Rose of the Classics Department, were also among the sponsors of a mass demonstration held by the Connecticut Peace Action Coalition at the New Haven Green on Oct. 31, 1970, as part of a nationwide effort to end the Vietnam War.15
      Ken delivered a lecture entitled “Dialectics of Black Liberation” in November 1970 at a conference on “Philosophy and the Black Liberation Struggle,” sponsored by the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. The other speakers included Professor Albert Mosley of Federal City College in Washington, D.C., Professor Bernard Boxill of the University of California at Santa Barbara, and William M.C. Okadigbo of the Catholic University of America.
      [The "dialectics of liberation" had actually been the subject of an international conference that was held in London in July 1967. Participants at the Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation had included such writers and social activists as Gregory Bateson, Stokely Carmichael, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Goodman, Ronald D. Laing, Herbert Marcuse, Paul Sweezy, and Thich Nhat Hanh. David Cooper, a South African psychiatrist and writer, had said in his remarks to the conference that "Each of us is composed of a series of dualities that run through every level...of our existence...These dualities include: subject-object, white-black, oppressor-oppressed, colonizer-colonized...Now the ideal that we contain all these oppositions and learn to bear both the pain and joy of this act of self-containment. But, because of the historical situation, for which we are each of us totally responsible, we have each of us split off any number of these dualities...and have externalized these split-off aspects of ourselves into others. This supreme the existential basis of colonialism, for instance, or institutionalized racism."16 Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, had said in his remarks to the conference that "Black Power, to us, means that black people see themselves as part of a new force, sometimes called the Third World; that we see our struggle as closely related to liberation struggles around the world."17 And Herbert Marcuse had said in his remarks to the conference that "the 'dialectics of liberation' [is] actually a redundant phrase, because I believe that all dialectic is liberation...It is liberation from the repressive, from...a false system, be it an organic system...a social system...a mental or intellectual system: liberation by forces developing within such a system...liberation by virtue of the contradiction generated by the system."18 ]
      John Taft, who was a member of the Yale College Class of 1972, and who later became a historian and television documentary producer, was one of the students in a history seminar taught by Professor Donald Kagan in 1971 who conducted interviews with many Yale students and faculty about the events leading up to the May Day 1970 rally in New Haven. Among the faculty they interviewed were President Kingman Brewster, Special Assistant to the President Henry Chauncey, University Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, professor of English Richard Sewall, professor of psychology Kenneth Keniston, and professor of philosophy Kenneth Mills. The interviews provided background material for Taft's book, Mayday at Yale: A Case Study in Student Radicalism (1976).19
      During the course of his being interviewed by Taft, Ken Mills says, in discussing the May Day student strike, that 'when the normal operations of the university get disrupted, there may be a space created for the posing of certain types of questions that people [ordinarily don't] concern themselves with. That is what we were interested in...The process whereby people become politically reflective.'20
      In a PBS Frontline program entitled “Are We Better Off? The Two Nations of Black America” (1998), Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was a member of the Yale College Class of 1973, says that "Ken Mills [was] a Trinidadian-born, Oxford-trained analytic philosopher, who stood six feet six, wore a blue jean suit,…drove a TR-6, and sported a conical-shaped Afro. He was the voice of the Revolution itself, Marx and Marcuse [with a] black face; pulling quotes from Hegel and Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Fanon, Gramsci and Mad, out of thin air like Svengali, in a classical Oxbridge accent that the Anglophile wannabees on the Yale faculty could only envy. Ken was bad, if ever bad there was, as bad as he wanted to be…”21
      Austin Clarke, the Barbadian novelist, essayist, and short story writer who taught in the English Department at Yale from 1968-1970, says in his memoir ‘Membering (2015) that Ken was a “tall, handsome, and intellectually brilliant man,” and that “although he shuns us, his black colleagues, because we are not bright like him, yet we, students and faculty alike, know that, as the black American hipster puts it, he’s ‘got his shit together.’”22
      Clarke also says that “Some of my black students told me that they regretted Ken’s refusal to associate with them, that he did not want to be their ‘adviser,’…yet they knew, so they assured me, that Ken’s image was assured, for with his brilliance and brains, they were willing to admit that ‘the brother is heavy.’”23
      In the fall semester of 1971, Ken taught a course entitled “Reason and Revolution” (which is also the title of a book by Herbert Marcuse, in which Marcuse argues that Hegel's political philosophy may be described as a theory of revolution, insofar as Hegel says that reason is a historical force that leads to freedom, and that revolution can demonstrate reason's ultimate power over reality.24)
      On February 8, 1972, it was announced that President Kingman Brewster had suspended Kenneth Mills for one year from the Yale faculty, due to the discovery that Ken had simultaneously held a faculty position at another university (the State University of New York, Stony Brook) against Yale’s regulations. Yale Provost Charles Taylor, without any prior warning to Ken, had sent Dean Horace Taft to Ken's apartment on January 6, 1972 to knock on his door and demand his resignation, and when Ken refused to resign, Brewster decided to suspend him. Ken chose to resign from Stony Brook, rather than from Yale. He criticized Provost Charles Taylor’s disregard for due process, and he explained that his acceptance of a position at Stony Brook had been motivated not by financial reasons, but by his doubtful advancement possibilities at Yale and his desire to work with Stony Brook’s innovative social welfare program.25 The Yale Daily News later reported that Brewster “claimed to be taking a compromise position between those who felt Mills should be fired outright and those who maintained little or no response was necessary.”26The Yale Corporation, on March 11, 1972, approved Brewster’s decision.
      The Yale Daily News reported, on Feb. 2, 1972, that Yale faculty contracts at that time were “generally verbal rather than written,”27 and, on Feb. 8, 1972, that “The rule Mills broke was not written into his contract, (as a matter of fact, he had no written contract) nor was it directly expressed orally or literally to him in any way when he came to Yale. The rule is found only in the ‘Faculty Handbook.’”28
      The Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY) and other student groups expressed support for Ken, and they demanded that he be immediately reinstated. Delegations of students met with President Brewster and with members of the Yale Corporation. Student rallies were held, and a petition signed by 940 students was presented to the philosophy department in March 1972. However, the university administration refused to change its position.
      The New York Times, on February 28, 1972, reported that “Kingman Brewster Jr., the president of Yale University, recently suspended for one year a young, popular, black, Marxist philosophy teacher, causing a stir among faculty and undergraduates…A towering Trinidadian who did his undergraduate work at University College, London, and his graduate work under the eminent philosopher of language A.J. Ayer, at New College, Oxford, Professor Mills speaks of himself as a stranger to the ‘Old Blue inner circle at Yale.’”29
      The Times continued:

      “Sanford Kravitz, dean of Stony Brook’s School of Social Welfare, where Professor Mills had been teaching four days a week, supervising seven students and heading a field project, said he had been as unaware of the professor’s commitment to Yale as Yale had been unaware of his commitment to Stony Brook. Professor Mills taught two courses at both universities.
      Although the Stony Brook Faculty Handbook states only that a faculty member must obtain permission before undertaking any outside appointment, Dean Kravitz said permission would have probably been denied Professor Mills had he sought to legitimize his commitment to Yale. Professor Mills’s salary at Stony Brook was $26,000; at Yale, $13,000.”30
      Time magazine article on Mar. 13, 1972 said that Ken Mills “is a heavy-shouldered, 6-ft. 4-in. black from Trinidad with a towering Afro hairdo and a penchant for blue jeans. He is also an avowed Marxist. Nonetheless, as a pupil of Oxford’s distinguished logician A.J. Ayer, he so impressed the Yale philosophy department that he was hired in 1968 to teach courses on revolution and black liberation. And when Yale confronted the threat of a May Day riot two years ago, he worked diligently to help keep the peace.”31

Kenneth Mills speaking to a group of Yale students at Linsley-Chittenden Hall, 1969. Copyright 2016 Yale Daily News Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

      Ken went to Brown University as a visiting professor in 1972-1973. He taught two courses during the fall semester: “Political Ideologies and History” and “The State and Revolution.”
       He returned to Yale in the fall of 1973, but he was only given a one-year extension of his contract, and was denied tenure.
      What exactly were the reasons for his not being offered a further extension of his contract? Besides the controversy surrounding his suspension, could his political activism and his outsider status (as a black Trinidadian, civil rights activist, and public philosopher) vis-à-vis Yale’s traditional elite have also been reasons?
      The Yale Daily News, on Nov. 13, 1972, reported that unnamed faculty members had described his chances for reappointment as “slim,” because of “alleged lack of distinction and quantity of published writing and lack of experience in supervising dissertations.”32 However, his faculty and student supporters praised him as being a gifted scholar and as having superb teaching skills.
      The Yale Daily News, on June 26, 1972, also reported that he had received job offers from Antioch College and the University of New Mexico. 
      However, Ken was one of three teachers of philosophical and political Marxism at Yale, of whom two, Kenley Dove and William McBride, had already been denied tenure. The philosophy department’s recommendation that McBride receive tenure had been rejected by the executive committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, a somewhat unusual outcome for department recommendations, and a cause for speculation that Marxist thought was being removed from the curriculum. McBride, who later became Arthur G. Hansen Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University, spoke of the decline in the study and teaching of political philosophy that this loss of scholars represented for the Yale philosophy department.33
     Charlotte Allen, in an article entitled “As Bad as it Gets: Three Dark Tales from the Annals of Academic Receivership” (1998), describes the Yale philosophy department of the 1970s as follows:

  “The troubles at Yale’s philosophy department date back to the war over methodology that plagued many American philosophy departments during the 1950s and 1960s…Analytic philosophy…broadly speaking, focuses on the logical analysis of language and concepts. While rival methodologies—phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism---flourished on the European Continent, analytic philosophy became the dominant school of the Anglophone world…
      The Yale philosophy department, by contrast, tried for many years to represent a spectrum of schools. In 1973 the department hired Ruth Barcan Marcus, a leading analytic philosopher and specialist in modal logic. Marcus…was determined to remold Yale into a bastion of analytic thinking. Her main technique was to fight to the death tenurings of non-analytic junior faculty, as well as appointments of non-analytic outsiders. She quickly helped send packing two promising junior phenomenologists, David Carr (now chair of philosophy at Emory) and Edward Casey (now chair of philosophy at SUNY Stony Brook).
      But absolute victory eluded Marcus. Her leading opponent on the Yale faculty was John Smith, an exponent of the American pragmatist school and a philosopher of religion. As department chair, Smith had recruited Marcus to Yale but remained a staunch advocate of the program’s pluralistic tradition. In 1980 Smith was elected president of the Eastern division of the American Philosophical Association (APA) over the opposition of Marcus, who chaired the APA’s national board of officers. Smith and Marcus were famous for their floor fights at the APA—which they took back with them to Yale.
      The result was an impasse that prevented virtually any new hirings or tenurings for most of the 1970s and 1980s.”34
      Ken Mills was one of the speakers at a conference on morality and international violence that was held at Kean College of New Jersey on April 22-24, 1974. He and Arthur Danto spoke on “The Feasibility of Moral Codes in Modern Warfare.” (Arthur Danto later wrote an article entitled “On Moral Codes and Modern War” that was published in the journal Social Research, Vol. 45, No. 1, 1978, pp. 176-190.)

Kenneth Mills at the Ingalls Rink rally, April 1970. Copyright 2016 Yale Daily News Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

       Ken taught at Swarthmore College from 1974-1975. This was his final teaching position.
      He had met Francelle Carapetyan in 1964, when they both were students at Oxford. He was then a graduate student, and she was an undergraduate. She was born in Boston, but was raised in Europe, and she attended the Rosemead School in Littlehampton, England before studying French and Italian literature at Oxford. She and Ken went together to the University of Alberta in 1966, where she studied for three years, and they were married in 1970. She became a teacher and vice principal for students at the Choate Rosemary Hall School in Wallingford, Connecticut from 1974-1985, and she later worked as a photo editor and image researcher.
      In 1976-1977, Ken began to have exacerbations of his Crohn's disease. For several years, there were times when he had to be rushed to the hospital with life-threatening medical problems. He eventually passed away at home in Wallingford, Connecticut, on January 31, 1983.
      One way of describing Ken's legacy as a philosopher may be to say that he showed how theory could be combined with practice, and how philosophical thought could be combined with social action. He was politically engaged, and he was passionately concerned with social justice. He had the courage to oppose oppression and exclusion, and he had the dedication to promote peace and reconciliation.
      Among Francelle's reflections are that: "Ken was never irresponsible. He was never a flame thrower, metaphorically or literally. At the same time, he was someone for whom passion and reason were both important, and in whom both were combined, and he didn't see them as mutually exclusive."
      Francelle also says that after his final year of teaching at Swarthmore College, and in response to the reluctance of other colleges and universities to hire him because of his political activism, "Ken felt that he had reached an impasse in America. He felt boxed in. It was extremely difficult for him. He was a leader when he was teaching and when he was actively political. For him, they were one and the same. He was charismatic. He was intense. But at the same time, he wanted to make sure that people were with him, because the stakes were so high at the time."
      In 1977, it was revealed that the New Haven Police Department had illegally wiretapped more than 1200 people between 1964 and 1971. Among those who were subjected to illegal wiretapping were several Yale faculty members, including Professor Vincent Scully, former University Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, and former Professor Kenneth Mills. The City of New Haven agreed in 1985 to pay $1.75 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by 52 plaintiffs, among whom were Kenneth Mills and Francelle Carapetyan. Ken and Francelle were eventually able, through the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain some of the transcripts of their telephone conversations that had been illegally recorded. They also discovered that their movements in New Haven had been followed by the New Haven police and the FBI.
      Michele Celine Mills, Ken’s eldest daughter, was born in London, but grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, where she obtained a B.A. degree (with honors) in English Literature from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad campus. She later completed the in-service post-graduate Diploma in Education at the School of Education, UWI Trinidad. She was a teacher at the secondary level for twenty years, eighteen of these in Trinidad, and two years at the Clement Howell High School, on the island of Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Michele has also had a career in journalism, working as the Features Editor with Daily News Limited (Newsday), a national daily newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. It was during this phase of her career that Michele completed her Master’s degree in Education in 2002 with the Sheffield University Caribbean program, and in 2013 she received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Bristol.35
      Suzanne Mills, like her mother, has had a distinguished career in journalism. In 2006, she was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. She has a Master’s degree in journalism from Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she studied on a British Council Chevening scholarship. She also holds a diploma (with distinction) in International Media Law, and a B.A. in Spanish and Anthropology from the University of New Brunswick, Canada.36
      Roger Mills, the younger brother of Michele and Suzanne Mills, has also worked as a journalist. He has an advanced degree in journalism, and has worked as a Trinidad and Tobago Newsday special correspondent. He is currently a teacher.
      Michele provides the following very poignant and moving account of her father’s life and family relationships.
      “Ken was born in the area of Belmont, close to the capital city Port of Spain during the British colonial era. The Mills family hailed from the town of St. Joseph (San José de Oruna), actually the first capital established by the Spanish in Trinidad, probably due to its elevated situation. The family was a very erudite one, a family of teachers. Ken’s father, Leighton, as he was always called, spoke fluent Latin. Ken’s grandfather was a headmaster of a primary school, and I believe that is where Ken received his early education, as did all the grandchildren.
      Ken’s birth certificate lists his father’s occupation as “accountant.” I cannot elaborate on this, because I know of him as being a journalist. I know almost nothing about my paternal grandmother, as she died when Ken was a toddler. Ken’s father moved to the twin island Tobago, where he started a private secondary school. At that time, there was a need for secondary level schools on both islands, but more so in Tobago. This is where he wrote his book of poems. [Horace Eugene Leighton Mills’s Anthology of Poems, and a 3-act play, Flora was published by Busby’s Printerie in Trinidad, in 1966.] It was entitled “Flora,” after the terrible hurricane that devastated Tobago during his time there. Leighton was married twice. With his first wife, he had Monica and Ken Mills. Sadly, their mother died of tuberculosis when Ken was about two and his sister five. Apparently, she was already ill with the disease when she gave birth to Ken, who was born with Crohn’s disease, which went undiagnosed until he went to London in the 50’s. Ken’s father remarried, and he and his wife had two daughters, Merrie and Ann. Only my aunt Ann married. The younger sisters live in Canada, and my aunt Monica lives in New York.
      Ken’s father died of cancer in Trinidad in February 1982, almost exactly one year before Ken’s death. That would have been the last time I ever spoke to my father. He did not travel back for the funeral, but we spoke on the phone. I think his father, Leighton, was, like him brilliant, but a frustrated artist, because at that time in a colonial society there was little room for artistic development. Hence, most writers, like V.S. Naipaul and others, left the island. I am sure that is why Ken left as well. Ken was also a journalist, and this is how my parents met. Ken and his sister Monica were raised by their aunts in the family home at St. Joseph. Most of the aunts were single women. His younger sisters had their mother, but they too spent a lot of their youth in that household. Ken attended Queen’s Royal College (QRC) during his secondary years. This was paid for by his aunt, Stella Mills, herself a teacher and later a headmistress of a successful primary school. QRC was the top school in its day, established by the colonial government and based on a very British grammar school model. Ken was in class with the author V.S. Naipaul, and they often took the train home together.
      Ken was not part of our lives growing up. For myself, there was undoubtedly much angst over the years, particularly because much remained unresolved. He died at the age of 52. He would have been 85 on his birthday this year. I was 25 at the time of his death and was living in London. He never saw his first two grandsons (I was already married with two young boys). Over the years, my mother made sure that we maintained close relationships with our great aunts in St. Joseph and with Ken’s sisters. There was genuine and mutual respect and affection between her and his family. Luncheons there were a time for great discussions and witty banter, and as children we were part of it. Over the years, his aunts came to rely on my mother for advice and support. Uncannily, almost all Ken’s aunts died during the 1980’s, and the family dwindled. The women were really the strong force in that family.
      Ken is buried in the churchyard at St. Joseph, in Trinidad. He became quite ill in London soon after I was born, and it was there that his condition was first diagnosed as Crohn’s and was treated through radical intestinal surgery. He enjoyed a 20-year period of remission and good health. However, I think in the late 70’s or thereabouts, the disease returned, and he was treated with steroids. Apparently, these took a toll on his heart. He died while reading on his bed, on the morning of January 31st, 1983. 
      I think that at some level my father was deeply troubled by not being part of our lives, but he seemed unable to alter the pattern. Apparently, he was not happy even discussing it with his wife. I have come to think of him as very complex. I believe that he was very disheartened by the episode at Yale, and I think his illness returned after that period. A year after his death, I travelled from London to Connecticut, and spent some days with Francelle in the house they shared. It was the first time I had been there, and I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect there was from a number of people who came to see me, his daughter. It was strange in some ways. I think that until his death, not many knew he even had children. However, I understand all that as part of his complexity. Maturity has helped me to come to terms with it all. I have already outlived him. I recall two visits he made to Trinidad, the first when I was 13 (1971), and again at 19 (1977), when I was in my first year as an undergrad at the Trinidad campus of the UWI. Those were awkward visits. He never returned to Trinidad again until his body was brought back for burial, and I never saw him again.”


Thanks to Michele Mills, for the biographical information and the very moving personal account that she contributed to this portrait of Kenneth Mills.

Thanks also to Francelle Carapetyan, for the biographical information and personal insights that she contributed to this portrait of Kenneth Mills.


1“Rest in Peace, Mrs. Mills,” Jan. 2, 2014, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, online at,188611.html.
2”Therese Mill dies at 85,” Daily Express, Jan. 1, 2014, online at
3”I just wanted to write stories,” Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Nov. 11, 2012, online at,169092.html.
4Therese Mills, Byline: The Memoirs of Therese Mills, edited by Suzanne Mills, 2016, p. 110.
5The Stanford Daily, “Viet Nam ‘Teach-In’ Begins At Noon,” by Joel Kugelmass, May 17, 1965, online at
6The Stanford Daily, “CSM to Run Vietnam Talk,” online at
7Kenneth I. Mills, “Towards a Phenomenology of Morals,” in Inquiry, Vol. 11, 1968, pp. 1-39.
8Ibid., p. 20.
9Ibid., p. 24.
10Lawrence Lifshultz, "Happy Birthday, Paul!", in Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine, Vol. 51, April 2000, online at 
11”Whose Movement?”, George Kannar, Yale Daily News, April 29, 1969, online at
12“Nine Colleges Vote to Strike, Respond to Solidarity Call,” by Thomas Kent and Richard Schwartz, Yale Daily News, April 22, 1970, online at
13”2500 Students at Mass Meeting Hear Pleas for Continued Strike: Non-Violence Emphasized,” by William Bulkeley, Yale Daily News, April 30, 1970, online at
14Austin Clarke, ‘Membering (Toronto: Dundurn, 2015), p. 432.
15Vietnam Protest Planned,” by Charles Cuneo, Yale Daily News, Oct. 22, 1979, online at
16David Cooper, "Beyond Words," in The Dialectics of Liberation, edited by David Cooper (London: Verso, 2015), online at
17Stokely Carmichael, "Black Power," in The Dialectics of Liberation, edited by David Cooper (London: Verso, 2015), p. 172.
18Herbert Marcuse, "Liberation from the Affluent Society," in The New Left and the 1960s: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Volume 3 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005), p. 76.
19"Bulldog and Panther: The 1970 May Day Rally and Yale," at Yale University Library Online Exhibits, 2014,
20"Kenneth Mills, interviewed by John Taft," 1971, in the May Day Rally and Yale Collection, Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives.
21Henry Louis Gates, “Are We Better Off?”, PBS Frontline, 1998, online at
22Austin Clarke, ‘Membering (Toronto: Dundurn, 2015), pp. 429-430.
23Ibid., p. 430.
24Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1941), p. 6.
25”Island Interviews Study Mills Issue,” by Jim Liebman, Yale Daily News, Feb. 21, 1972, online at
26 “Philosophy Extends Term of Mills for One Year,” by Jim Liebman, Yale Daily News, June 26, 1972, online at
27”Yale to Release Decision on Mills,” by Jim Liebman, Yale Daily News, Feb. 2, 1972, online at
28”Does Yale Need Mills?”, by Jim Liebman, Yale Daily News, Feb. 8, 192, online at
29”Ban on Yale Professor Stirs Campus,” by James M. Markham, The New York Times, Feb. 29, 1972, online at
31”Education: The Moonlighter,” Time, Mar. 13, 1972, online at,9171,903367,00.html.
32”Mills review complete; outcome in question,” by Michael Spencer, Yale Daily News, Nov. 13, 1972, online at
33”Tenure Decision Stirs Objections,” Yale Daily News, April 13, 1972, online at
34Charlotte Allen, “As Bad as it Gets: Three Dark Tales from the Annals of Academic Receivership,” in Linguafranca, Volume 98, No. 2, March 1998, online at
35University of Bristol Graduate School of Education, “Members’ research interests and related activities,” online at
36”Suzanne Mills appointed Editor-in-Chief,” Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Sept. 10, 2006, online at,44042.html.