Fresno State library could get name change after resurfaced racist, anti-Semitic writings

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The name on Fresno State's library could come down after Henry Madden's anti-Semitic hatred surfaced in writings stored in the library itself.

Madden's personal collection fills up 53 boxes and includes hundreds of thousands of pages, so it'll take a while to get the full picture.

But university administrators have already seen enough from the 1930s to know they need to do something.

"The writings that we're aware of are certainly disturbing," said Fresno State's executive director of governmental relations, Michael Lukens. "There's no question about that."

Fresno State professor Dr. Bradley Hart briefly mentioned the university library's namesake in his 2018 book Hitler's American Friends.

Three years later, Madden's words shocked the first Fresno State class assigned the book.

They shared their outrage with the administration.

Madden expressed Nazi sympathies and explicitly stated his hatred for Jewish people.

Hart quoted a letter in which Madden wrote "Whenever I see one of those predatory noses, or those roving and leering eyes, or those slobbering lips, or those flat feet, or those nasal and whiny voices I tremble with rage and hatred. They are the oppressors.... Whom do I hate more than the Jews?"

"These horrific, racist anti-Semitic tropes that people have perpetuated for generations, it's horrible and it doesn't do anyone any good," said Rabbi Rick Winer of Fresno's Temple Beth Israel.

Winer is joining a task force of about 18 people deciding how Fresno State should respond to the discovery.

He says he'll go in with an open mind despite what he's heard, and forgiveness is at least on the table if there was repentance in the decades between those thoughts and Madden's death in 1982.

"If he came back and completely renounced what he said and said he was completely wrong, that's part of the discussion," Rabbi Winer said. "I don't know that and again, I'm not going to prejudge."

University President Saul Jiménez-Sandoval said the views Madden expressed run contrary to Fresno State's core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Lukens will chair the task force collecting information to help Jiménez-Sandoval make a decision.

"The president wanted to form this task force to really take a look at the writings of Madden, not just the things we know about, but any other writings," he said.

The task force meets for the first time Wednesday.

They're hoping to start figuring out what else Madden wrote and a timeline for their work.

Their process could also serve as a framework for any future naming discussions.
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.