Michigan taking down vestiges of racism, intolerance
A nearly 80-year-old statue depicting a European settler with a weapon in his hand towering over a Native American that some say celebrates white supremacy has been dismantled by crews in southwestern Michigan’s Kalamazoo.
And at the University of Michigan, regents have voted to strip a former school president’s name from a campus science building because he lent his scientific expertise to groups that were in favor of selective reproduction, also known as eugenics.
Vestiges of racism and intolerance are slowly being moved and removed in Michigan and other northern states. In some cases, the efforts are being led by students and faculty at prestigious universities, community leaders and elected officials taking harder looks at their history and potentially divisive issues while being spurred by more widespread efforts in the South to erase the nation’s slave past.
“I think it’s very much in line with the things we’re seeing happen across the country,” said Josh Hasler, a recent University of Michigan graduate who worked as a student with some faculty members to have Clarence Cook Little’s name scraped off the building on the school’s Ann Arbor campus.
Little was the school’s president from 1925 to 1929. He supported sterilization of what eugenics referred to as the “unfit” and also backed immigration restrictions and laws against the mixing of racial groups, including in marriage. He was scientific director of a tobacco research advisory board in the 1950s and was accused of sowing doubt about smoking and cancer.
The vote to take down Little’s name came in March along with one by regents to remove late science professor Alexander Winchell’s name from a residence hall wing. Winchell wrote a book that is cited by white supremacist groups.
“No one is trying to erase history,” Hasler said. “It goes to show that remembering and commemorating aren’t the same thing.”
Monuments honoring Confederate soldiers have been targeted for removal from courthouses, statehouses, schools and public parks since the racially motivated killings of nine African-American parishioners in 2015 at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and after last year’s violent protests at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.