L.S.U.'s current interim president, Tom Galligan, explained the reasons for the change. "Our goal is to erase symbols of things that exemplify a racist past," Galligan stated.
Any student, or particularly a student of color, that has to go into any building which bears the name of someone not identified with progress and [instead] with racist traditions is to inhibit their education. They won't feel safe in that building.President Galligan is right. It is simply unacceptable to require African Americans to study in buildings that were named after prominent racists. But I think America's education leaders should widen their examination of our nation's chauvinistic past and expose all famous people in American history who were prejudiced against not only African Americans but Catholics and eastern Europeans as well.
As Thomas Leonard revealed in his book Illiberal Reformers, almost all American intellectuals and political leaders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were eugenicists. By definition, these people supported efforts to reduce so-called inferior racial strains from America's predominately white, Anglo-Saxon population.
Francis A. Walker, president of M.I.T. (1881-1897), was a eugenicist who was prejudiced against eastern and southern Europeans. Anderson Dixon White, president of Cornell University(1866-1885), portrayed European immigrants as barbarian invaders. David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford from 1891 to 1913, held similar views.
Moreover, American intellectuals during this period were almost universally prejudiced against Catholics. For example, Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law School (1870-1895), refused to admit graduates from Catholic colleges to Harvard Law School.
Harvard's president, Charles William Eliot, supported Langdell's bigoted policy, claiming it was based on the inferior quality of Catholic colleges and not prejudice. Was President Eliot himself an anti-Catholic bigot? You bet. On a trip to Europe in the mid-1860s, he wrote: "I hate Catholicism as I do poison, and all the pomp and power of the Church is depressing and mortifying me."
Racial and religious prejudice among American intellectuals during the Progressive era is well documented, and yet we are not renaming buildings that were named after prominent bigots. Harvard's law library is still named after Dean Langdell. Stanford still has a campus building named after David Starr Jordan. Walker Memorial at M.I.T. still honors its eugenicist president.
So here is my plea to American higher education. Yes, scrub the names of racists from campus buildings. But don't settle for outing Confederates and relatively obscure guys like Mr. Middleton. Change the names of buildings that honor prominent eugenicists and religious bigots, including the buildings at Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, and M.I.T.
That's a big job, so you better get started.
|Christopher Columbus Langdell: Bigot-in-Chief at Harvard Law School (1870-1895)|