The Washington Post
Calif. college plans to review library’s name
Fresno State says Henry Madden held ‘deeply antisemitic views’
Leaders of California State University at Fresno are proud of their campus library, a gleaming edifice that includes a five-story elliptical tower of glass, steel and angled wood meant to symbolize a woven Native American basket. “The Henry Madden Library is where knowledge, technology, ideas, belonging and becoming converge,” Fresno State’s president, Saúl Jiménez-sandoval, recently told faculty and staff.
Now, the university confronts a troubling fact about the library: It is named, Jiménez-sandoval said this week, for a man “who held deeply antisemitic views and Nazi sympathies.”
Henry Madden, who was the longtime librarian of Fresno State, expressed his views on Jewish people and Nazi Germany in personal papers that remained sealed for a quarter-century after they were given to the university in 1982. A scholar at the university found them a few years ago through research on a book about Nazi sympathizers, and the information recently came to the university president’s attention.
Jiménez-sandoval said in a statement Monday to the campus community that the 25,000student university will form a task force to review the name the library has held since 1981. Likely to take months, the review is the latest instance of a reckoning over campus landmarks and ties to racism and other forms of oppression that has swept American higher education in recent years.
Jiménez-sandoval said the Madden papers express “clear antisemitic hate.” He added: “These views run entirely contrary to Fresno State’s core values of diversity, equity and inclusion and the efforts of our campus community to live by those values. The views attributed to Dr. Madden are more than allegations; they are reflections of his beliefs as captured in his own words, and in documents that he curated and donated to the Library before his passing.”
The president’s statement did not quote any specific language from Madden’s papers. But Bradley W. Hart, an associate professor of media, communications and journalism at Fresno State, did quote Madden in a 2018 book Hart wrote called “Hitler’s American Friends.”
According to Hart’s book, Madden was a doctoral student of history in New York in the 1930s. Madden wrote to a friend at the time about his impressions of Jewish people. “I am developing a violent and almost uncontrollable phobia against them,” Madden wrote, according to Hart’s book. Madden also used antisemitic tropes — such as “predatory noses” — to describe Jewish people, called them “the oppressors” and declared, “They must go,” according to the book.
Hart wrote that Madden’s admiration of Hitler grew along with his antisemitism. “Whenever I see him in the newsreels, I do my best to drown out with my applause the Bronx cheers and hisses which usually greet his inflammatory orations,” Madden wrote to a German friend in 1935, according to the book.
In the 1940s, according to Hart, Madden served on the staff of a U.S. Navy admiral working in Allied-occupied Berlin. In 1949, he became the librarian of what was then called Fresno State College. There, he became an “outspoken supporter of academic freedom,” according to Hart, and served the school in that position until 1979. During his tenure, the library grew from 70,000 volumes in 1949 to 576,000 at the time of his retirement. Madden died in 1982.
Jiménez-sandoval said that to his knowledge, Madden did not marry or have children. The president said he was also unaware of any close relatives who live in the region.
Word of Hart’s research findings came to the attention of university leadership after the author gave a presentation to a history class this fall taught by Fresno State professor Lori Clune. Jiménez-sandoval thanked Hart, Clune and the students in that class “for bringing this information to light.” The president said he also shared the information with Jewish community leaders in Fresno who serve on an advisory council for the university.
Jerry H. Mann, a lawyer who chairs that council, said he heard the news about Madden’s beliefs on Nov. 23. “It was, of course, absolutely appalling that the university would have a building named after somebody who was supportive of Nazi Germany and the ideology of the Nazis,” Mann said Tuesday. “It was absolutely shocking. And the question becomes, ‘What do you do now?’ ”
Mann said the library’s name is likely to change. But he first wants a careful review of what Madden wrote, said and did. “What are the facts?” Mann asked. “Did he repudiate the views he purportedly expressed in the ’30s? Did he change?”
Hart expressed support for the university’s response. “This is an important initiative and I am proud to contribute however I can,” he wrote on Twitter.
Around the country, many colleges and universities have reviewed building names in recent years. The reckoning intensified last year in response to the racial justice movement that arose after George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered during an arrest in Minneapolis.
In January, the California Institute of Technology announced it would rename buildings and other campus assets that had honored several backers of the racist eugenics movement. This year, Virginia’s community college board renamed five colleges that previously had names with ties to slavery, the Confederacy and the Jim Crow era of segregation.
Jiménez-sandoval said in a telephone interview that he wants the task force to take a deep dive into the subject before the university decides what to do. He said he was stunned to learn of what the Madden documents contained. “Two thoughts came to my mind,” he said. “Number one, it was very surprising to me. How can this be? And number two, why didn’t we know about it?”