Report: Namesakes of UO buildings supported slavery, led local KKK
EUGENE, Ore. - Matthew Deady helped found the University of Oregon law school.
He also supported slavery and the exclusion of blacks from the Oregon Territory.
Frederic Dunn served as head of the Classics department for 37 years, developing a national reputation as a scholar.
He also served as the Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in Eugene.
President Michael Shill appointed a panel of historians to delve into the legacies of the two men after receiving a demand from a student group to remove their names from campus buildings.
"The historians’ report is a sobering account of a tumultuous and difficult period in Oregon’s history," Schill wrote. "I encourage you to read the report and invite you to provide me with your views on whether one or both of the buildings should be denamed."
Schill in May set forth criteria for renaming a building.
A building shall be considered for denaming if the person for whom a building is named acted in one of the following ways:
1. Actively sponsored legislation or lobbied on behalf of laws and policies that perpetuated historic and contemporary acts of genocide and indigenous dispossession, slavery or internment, and/or promoted exclusionary migration or immigration laws, restrictive naturalization and voting laws, antimiscegenation laws, alien land laws, and laws or practices promoting racial segregation in housing and public accommodations.
2. Promoted violence against an individual or group based on race, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, or political affiliation.
Was a member of a nongovernmental organization or society that promoted or engaged in acts of violence or intimidation targeting individuals or groups based on race, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, or political affiliation.
3. Engaged in practices, behaviors, or other actions that contravene the values articulated in the university’s mission statement and bring infamy or dishonor to the university.
4. Demonstrated discriminatory, racist, homophobic, or misogynist views that actively promoted systemic oppression, taking into consideration the mores of the era in which he or she lived.
5. Failed to take redemptive action, particularly in the context of the specific actions and behaviors set forth above.
The historians organized their findings in part to address those criteria.
For example, "Deady ran as a pro-slavery delegate to the Oregon Constitutional Convention in 1857, maintained that slaves were property under the law, and argued that southerners who moved to Oregon had a right to hold onto their human property," the historians reported.
But they also found that "Deady never supported genocide or even indigenous dispossession. To the contrary, he believed, for example, that the Nez Perce had the right of possession of the Wallowa Valley and that whites had no rights to the land there."
Those viewpoints led the historians to say Deady had a very complicated intellect that defies a simple summary."
"Some of his opinions and actions today, especially his support of slavery (which he never disavowed), the exclusion of blacks from the state, his judicial reasoning on race and citizenship, and his patriarchal views of women’s property rights are repugnant to us today, though they — in particular black exclusion — found broad support in his own time," they reported. "Others, especially his sympathy for Native Americans under conquest and for Chinese immigrants, were strikingly progressive for his time."
The assessment of Dunn revealed conflicts between his service to the University and his involvement in the Klan.
"Dunn dedicated his life to scholarship and critical thinking and deeply loved the university. However, his leadership of the Ku Klux Klan in Eugene contravenes the principle of 'ethical living' and surely brings 'infamy or dishonor to the university,'" the historians reported.
"Dunn did not personally sponsor legislation or lobby on behalf of laws or policies that perpetuated genocide, indigenous dispossession, slavery, internment, exclusionary migration or immigration laws, restrictive naturalization or voting laws, antimiscegenation laws, alien land laws, or laws or practices promoting racial segregation in housing and public accommodations. However, the Ku Klux Klan, of which he was not only a member but the Exalted Cyclops of the Eugene chapter, did all of those things at the national level," they reported.
The findings also shed a light on the activities of the Klan in Oregon.
"Dunn was the Exalted Cyclops of Eugene Klan #3, which engaged in acts of intimidation targeting Roman Catholics and sought to remove all Catholics from local office and Catholic teachers from the public schools. The Eugene Klan forced the resignation of Eugene’s mayor, city attorney, and chief of police. They successfully had three Catholic teachers dismissed from their jobs, and they unsuccessfully attempted to remove Mercy Hospital (now Sacred Heart) of its tax exemption," they reported. "The historical record is silent on whether Dunn personally promoted violence against individual or groups based on race, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual identity,or political affiliation. However, the Ku Klux Klan, of which he was Eugene’s Exalted Cyclops, did engage in violence and terrorism in Jackson County and elsewhere against African Americans and others who allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual acts or crimes, and he never publicly condemned that violence. Moreover, the Eugene Klan repeatedly burned crosses on Skinner Butte, which may be construed as an act of terrorism."
The report was prepared by David Alan Johnson, Professor, Portland State University and former Managing Editor (1997-2014), Pacific Historical Review; Quintard Taylor, Emeritus Professor and Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington; and Marsha Weisiger, Julie and Rocky Dixon Chair of U.S. Western History, University of Oregon.