Militant Journalism

‘Madden Must Go:’ Fresno’s struggle against Nazi symbolism

California State University Fresno’s “Henry Madden” library came under scrutiny after faculty at Fresno State surfaced former University librarian Madden’s deeply anti-Semitic history in his letters of correspondence with his mother and close friends. The letters are accessible in the library’s archives and until recently were sealed from the public. Madden worked at the library from 1949 to 1979 and the library was named after him in 1981.

In his correspondences between 1936 and 1938, a period when much of his time was spent studying in Nazi Germany, Madden made many pejorative remarks specifically targeting people of Jewish descent. Upon his return home from Germany, Madden remarked that New York with its large Jewish population was a “second Jerusalem” in which “as must have been the case in Germany, [the Jews] monopolize all professions, … control finance, … own the press, … and dictate all amusements.”

Writing to his mother, Madden was pleased to find that a correspondent of his “agrees with me that after all the Jews have been killed off, we will have to get rid of the Irish (including all Catholics!!!)” His horrific remarks range from hailing Hitler to suggesting Jews be put in camps and used for target practice on Jewish holidays.

In the past decade, people’s movements led a renewed push for change and sparked growing consciousness around the racist, oppressive history of the United States. Be it tearing down statues of slave owners, changing racist mascots and school names or holding racist or sexist public figures accountable, the message is clear: The people demand justice and accountability. Despite the conservative push-back, the legitimacy of iconography celebrating racism and exploitation is eroding.

Amidst local outcry, Fresno High School recently dropped the pejorative mascot symbol which was, until recently, an Indigenous warrior. Shortly after a new logo and name change was unveiled, conservatives reacted by filing a lawsuit, which claimed that the logo/mascot change would have a “fiscal impact” — a claim that runs counter to the school district’s assessment.

While the University organized a committee to look into the issue, members of the Board of Trustees generally rejected of plans to rename the library. An article titled “James Polk and Other Names in Dispute” by Donald R. Slinkard, the former managing editor of the Fresno Bee, attacked the idea of a name change, asking the reader: “Where does it end? … I thought eliminating Fresno High’s symbol of an Indian warrior was unnecessary.” The committee looking into the name change plans to release its findings at the end of this semester sometime in April or May.

Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Fresno are joining the campaign to rename the library. Local articles in the Fresno Bee and a recent banner drop from the library and Student Union reading “Madden Must Go” have given traction to the demand for the renaming of the library. What is needed now is pressure from the student body, faculty and community. 

Featured image: A hanging banner reads “Madden Must Go.” Liberation photo

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