Good for you, University of Oregon


There are some things you simply aren’t aware of when you’re immersed in an environment — and that’s the case when I was living in Oregon. I don’t recall Dunn Hall, which was one of the campus dorms, but then I didn’t live in the dorms, and was only vaguely aware of the undergraduate students. I never heard any discussion of Frederick Dunn, the guy it was named for, and who was a classics professor in the 1920s. I especially never heard that he was an Exalted Cyclops of the KKK.

But now people are talking about it, and the university is stripping his name from the roster of buildings, prompted by an act of vicious racism.

Student body president Quinn Haaga urged the trustees to act in the wake of the death of 19-year-old Larnell Bruce in Gresham. The black teenager was purposefully run over by a white supremacist, according to police reports.

“The state of Oregon has a very ugly racist history that was deeply ingrained in our policies and laws,” Haaga told the trustees. “Unfortunately, as this horrible tragedy illustrates, these sentiments are still very alive and well in many parts of the state.”

I know what argument some will use against this: there go the SJWs again, erasing history to signal their virtue, and maybe even comparing it to the erasure from official photos of Communists who lost favor with Stalin. But how can you erase history if you never knew it in the first place? This is an act that acknowledges horrible attitudes that were simply taken for granted. It made me conscious of a founding bigotry that I would otherwise have not known. Eugene is a lovely place to live, but you’re really swimming in a sea of whiteness while you are there (I live there for 8 years), and it’s easy to oblivious to Oregon’s history of sundown towns and anti-black laws.

But here’s one person who defended Dunn.

UO alumnus David Igl made an unsuccessful plea to retain Dunn’s name, saying the professor was involved with civic organizations — such as the YMCA and the Methodist Episcopal Church — that would be antithetical to the KKK’s views. He said Dunn was “a victim of some swindlers called the KKK.”

Hucksters from the South, Igl said, recruited KKK members in Eugene in the 1920s, using fear and bigotry as motivators to part townspeople from their money, but the townspeople soon were disillusioned.

Dunn didn’t repudiate his membership, as far as historians can tell, but Igl contends that few Klansmen did out of fear of the so-called invisible empire of the organization.

Oh, right. No racism in Oregon, just high-minded civic responsibility. The white founders of Oregon weren’t racist, no sir, it was all imported by sneaky bad people from Alabama and Georgia and Mississippi who crept across our border like reverse carpetbaggers, tainting the virtuous liberal egalitarianism of the pioneers. Except…

When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926. Oregon’s founding is part of the forgotten history of racism in the American west.

The South is a convenient scapegoat for racism, and yes, it has a history of racism too…but I’ve lived in Northern states, Washington and Oregon and Pennsylvania and now, Minnesota, and the racism is thick and strong here, too. We just don’t see it in action when we’re only hanging out with our white friends, and when we avoid confronting it. I only learned yesterday that there’s a house flying a confederate flag here in Morris, Minnesota — we’re all pretty good at closing our eyes.

I also learned that the University of Oregon is now planning to rename Deady Hall. I didn’t know Dunn, but I certainly knew Deady Hall — it’s the oldest building on campus, very prettily antique, but now I find out that Matthew Deady, one of the founders of the UO (although I knew he was actually opposed to the university system, and didn’t want a university, although he was happy to grab control when it was founded) was pro-slavery.

See? We don’t talk about these uncomfortable facts, until someone waves them in our face, and then we’re all embarrassed and decide that maybe we shouldn’t be naming prominent racists as heroes of our institution.


  1. multitool says

    What’s next, are the SJWs gonna take down Adolph Hitler Park too? And the Pol Pot foosball center? Heritage not hate!

    Actually this picture of Oregon is a real surprise to me. I’ve never been there so the only image I have is from Portlandia.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    phonetically amusing, Dunn Hall. “when you’re finished go dunn hall, (with boughs of holly, eh) ”
    sorry. too soon

    Thank you OU for trying to clean up reminders of a history that is not worth remembering other than a “lesson to learn”.
    Seriously. it is good to hear of some reparations being attempted.

  3. Who Him says

    “Exalted Cyclops”, wtf? I love D&D as much as the next nerd, but this is getting into some Mazes and Monsters level shit. Was Jack Chick right?

  4. jerthebarbarian says

    Hucksters from the South, Igl said, recruited KKK members in Eugene in the 1920s, using fear and bigotry as motivators to part townspeople from their money, but the townspeople soon were disillusioned.

    So let me get this straight. The defense is “he was a bigot, but he wasn’t really a member of the Klan. Instead he was the mark for a bunch of con artists who used his bigotry to con him out of his money.”

    I have to admit, it’s certainly a novel defense against the idea that no building on campus should be dedicated in the name of a member of the KKK. It doesn’t really seem all that compelling to me.

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 7:
    I agree, oops. I struggle with finding an appropriate word for what they’re doing.

  6. blf says

    “Exalted Cyclops”, wtf?

    Over at Affinity (here at FtB), I referenced an SPLC paper which included some information about the silly KKK names.

    The “Grand Cyclops” (no idea about the “Exalted Cyclops”) was the original name of the head of the KKK (in at least its first iteration).

  7. anthrosciguy says

    I really love Oregon, but that doesn’t preclude acknowledging that it has a horrific past when it comes to race. And that there are plenty of problems still. Loving a place does not mean closing your eyes and playing pretend.

  8. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    Hmmmm. All of these people who are objecting to “erasing history”, I assume that they were all horrified when the USSR collapsed and all those statues of Stalin and Lenin were torn down. Why, the renaming of Leningrad to Saint Petersburg must have had them searching for the fainting couch!

    Really, the re-examination and acknowledgement of history, with consequences such as apologies, reparations, renaming, etc., seems to me emblematic of stronger, better, more mature society.

  9. multitool says

    PZ asked: You’ve never noticed how white Portlandia is?

    Well actually yes, and I’ve visited Seattle too and noticed how Scandinavian it is.

    Wishful thinking, but they were so progressive I thought the homogeneity might be just accident, and not from an active campaign of racism.

  10. says

    Just to expand a little on the historical angle: remember that, in 1859, the largest single political issue in the U.S. was whether slavery would be expanded into newly admitted states or would remain confined to the “original South.” (Actual abolitionism had largely failed as a national political movement; the Republican party was founded on the more “moderate” basis of “free soil,” which basically meant that any new states should be free ones.) With the balance of free vs. slave states so hotly contested, there was basically no way for a new state to get admitted as either one. Oregon’s cunning solution was, as PZ writes, simply to make black people illegal. Bingo: a new state, neither slave nor free.

    Entertainingly enough, I learned about this history in high school…in Washington State (i.e. the piece of the Oregon Territory that was *not* admitted as a state until after the Civil War).

  11. enkidu says

    Afraid I’m going to somewhat disagree with this post. (Puts on suit of armour)

    I think it is too easy to just rename things, erase the history, and then we can all forget about it. Right? Better to make it a teaching point. It’s not like there were any other racists of the relevant era, were there? How about a large information board outside the building to explain the achievement and the sins of this individual. Sure, in the heat of revolution, signs of former oppressors are often destroyed. Given enough time the palaces of the Louis XIV’s, become tourist attractions.

    Here, down under, we tried the forgettaboutit tactic, told ourselves we were the least racist people in the world. Didn’t work! What little progress we have made was through talking about racism, past injustices, present problems and to some extent reparations.

    Keep the history – talk about it.

  12. Lilith Velkor says

    I just learned about the Nortwests racist history recently and thanks to PZ for filling that history in.

    California was just as racist, Japanese immigrants could no legally own land in the state fir a long time. l.A., mu home town, was the whitest and on of the most segregated cities in the country until WW II. Even after that until the early ’60’s we were still one of the mist segregated. Hell in the ’20’s we had a KKK big wig as mayor.

    Racism was never confined to the south and was a founding principal of the colonies even before the first slaves were brought here.

  13. Onamission5 says

    I agree that we should talk about the history. I disagree that we should leave monuments to awful people in place to shore up future generations of racists and demoralize those who continue to be affected by sour legacies. Monuments and dedications are generally reserved for people who we, as a society, admire; removing said monuments and dedications isn’t erasing history, it’s removing contributors to sordid parts of history from a place of prominence. The message that people who do X don’t deserve a place of honor isn’t the same thing as erasing the fact that people did X.

    Keep in mind that it was a black student org. whose request prompted the renaming. I hardly think they were considered in the first naming, so it’s about damn time they get some say in who their university honors.

  14. wzrd1 says

    @enkidu, at first blush, leaving the name in place sounds like a good idea for teachable moments. Alas, that ignores the gravitation of racists to such landmarks, as retaining the name legitimizes their views in their empty minds.

    So, in my personal view, a the battle flag of the confederacy belongs in a civil war museum or firmly attached to the inside of a furnace door.
    That’s especially true since we moved to NW Louisiana, where some consider it acceptable to speak in public in the most nastiest of racist terms you could imagine.

    As for teachable moments, noting how long it took to remove a name of a racist from a monument, how long a flag of treason was permitted by the people of a state to fly above their state capitol. That is as damning as anything still extant.

  15. wzrd1 says

    Argh! Totally OT, but an annoyance here…
    For our common mosquito, I’m usually left alone. I suspect it’s my garlic consumption, as I perspire some elements from the consumed garlic that I can taste within my own perspiration and my wife can smell. That’s been a lifelong thing, the buggers leave me alone when I eat garlic.
    But, since moving down here, I’ve noticed more bites during daytime, but entirely failed to measure them. I did so over the past few days and noticed a trend of daytime biting and ignoring my garlic consumption.
    Daytime biting is a known propensity for the invasive Aedes aegypti, a carrier of a number of diseases, to include the current panic driver, Zika virus. Frankly, I worry more about other diseases, as for other than in early pregnancy or immune dysfunction, Zika’s not that big of a deal.
    Of course, if infected during early pregnancy, the pregnancy will either abort or deliver a Trump. ;)
    OK, that was bad, rotten even, microcephaly isn’t anything to really joke about, but I am former military EMS and EMS workers overall develop a certain, to those who lack experience with us, gallows humor. Horrors witnessed daily generates that protective mechanism.
    I’m less worried about Zika than other diseases transmitted by this specific vector. They also transmit dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, and yellow fever viruses, as well as a few others less notable.
    As global travel and a fall back on our mosquito abatement programs have both increased, the risk has been ever growing.
    Dengue fever comes in multiple flavors, mix and matching in succession isn’t a good idea, it can become a lethal experience, but it’s referred to generally as “break bone fever”, for how one feels while experiencing it. Never had it, don’t want it, don’t recommend it, based on what those who have suffered it described. Well, at least that’s restricted to primates.
    Crud, there’s a world respected chimp sanctuary down the road, I don’t want them to suffer!
    Yeah, I’m serious, I’d rather be sick than let one of the chimps get sickened needlessly. I’m not endangered.
    Chikungunya, death a bit under 1:1000, joint pain from weeks, months or even years. Multiple reservoir species, rather wide, as birds are inclusive with cattle is part of that subset, so are rodents. Bad news on this continent. More likely to become resident widely.
    Yellow fever, well, that was a big deal back when we were declaring things, such as independence and penning a Constitution, quarantines for that. We don’t quarantine airplanes, impractical in the extreme for our current volume of international air traffic.
    But, a fair enough number have secondary symptoms, such as liver infection, leading to bleeding issues, kidney damage, jaundice and oh, detecting precisely what it is needs PCR testing.
    Well, we do have a vaccine, somewhat limited in production to what the military needs, largely and the general consensus to all of us who have received it is:
    “The Yellow Fever Vaccine sucks. Only a bit less than the disease”. I’ve never heard anyone not complain about the symptoms of the aftereffects of vaccination with that particular vaccine, myself included. That said, I’m an early reactor, during military mass vaccinations, I react the same day, with fever, malaise and body aches, requiring bedrest.
    The following day, I treated later reacting peers.

    My annnoyance, finding this feeding pattern (it also feeds like aedes, which is also specific to the subspecies).

    Currently, things are being addressed via a truck based fogger, familiar from my youth, but much more was used previously.
    In my area, the usual water collection vessels are present, complacency driving their accumulation, however, behind my garage, a “bayou”, a man made stormwater abatement collection canal, part of a series. IN this dry part of the season, flow has stagnated.
    While some spcieties have scientifically went with shrimp, the stagnation levels suggest to me, a bacterial approach.
    I’ll have to suggest that to the local health department, although, without funding, I’m dubious as to it being effective until a significant epidemic occurs.
    Hence, my annoyance and OT mention here.

    For, input would be welcome for alternative responses, if things go sideways.
    I have a good idea why I’m attracting the specific mosquito toward myself, as they leave my wife alone. I’ll try some small sample sized experiments to determine the truth of my suspicion, which would attact specific species of ants. Testing a secondary theory, well, it’ll be more complicated.
    If I find something, I’ll look for someone competent enough to properly write up a paper, then test it more properly, even if I have to fund it.