A few months ago, in a letter For editors defending Northern Michigan University’s decision to remove Luther West’s name from the physical structure now known only as the Science Building, I have a stark warning to our university community: Distorting history for one’s own personal interests.”
So it’s no surprise to discover that efforts by close friends and family of the late West to restore his shattered image continue today.
At the beginning of the school year, Luther West’s grandson, Mark D. West, wrote a letter To editors that NMU unjustly tarnished his grandfather’s “reputation for accusations of racism and the darkest aspects of eugenics.”In doing so, he apparently believes the university is ignoring evidence The content provided by the West family indisputably contradicts the university’s serious allegations that West supported the eugenics movement in the early 1900s.
On the face of it, however, the “evidence” provided by the Western family shows only two things.
first, In an interview with Miriam Hilton in 1972 Regarding his experience at Battle Creek College, West said the college (before it closed in 1938) had always been interested in “racial improvement” as an overarching idea – which could be “in any form” “Appearance” – he stressed that the Academy does not accept scientific racism.
Second, during his first year at NMU, West revised the description of a course he taught, replacing the term “eugenics movement” with “eugenics reform.”
In concluding that their “evidence” exonerated West of the charges against the university, the West family conveniently ignored West’s larger background teaching at Battle Creek College and NMU, let alone the man my own behavior.
For example, as I detailed in my previous post letter To Editor Dr. JH Kellogg, who served as President of the Battle Creek College Board of Trustees and the Racial Improvement Foundation in the 1920s, and publicly endorsed racist views in two published books over a 20-year period (1881-1901)— Honestly and young and A Guide to Women’s Health and Illness: Teenage Girls, Teenage Girls, Wife, Mothers —before he joined Battle Creek College. He also helped organize a series of academic conferences ostensibly on “racial amelioration,” in which scientific racism flows freely among participants.
exist First Racial Improvement ConferenceFor example, in 1914, a professor declared that “white and black intermarriage may not be good” because the latter was allegedly “in the tropics and [therefore] Never accepted social discipline. “
Given this troubling history, when West accepted an academic position at Battle Creek College, which was largely funded by Kellogg and used in the 1920s and 1930s as a way to spread his scientific racism and serve Its tools for intellectual support, West should know he made a conscious decision to work for an institution of higher education Academic Mission Inextricably linked to scientific racism — and in this case, white supremacy as well.
Once he finally arrived at Battle Creek, however, West did not shy away from showing his strong support for eugenic principles.
For example, when he participates in 3rd Racial Improvement Conference In 1928, West discussed his support for the creation of a eugenics registry that would “record the truly superior stocks” and advocate for “conservative eugenic legislation” and “a conservative [eugenics] educate. ”
West embraced eugenics outside of his academic life, serving as chair of the local committee fitter family gamea competition in which human “participants (divided into small, medium, and large family categories) were ranked according to the mental, physical, and moral health of family members.”
When Miriam Hilton interviewed him about his experience more than 40 years later, West had to make tough choices. On the one hand, he could paint the college in a more favorable light by trying to whitewash Battle Creek’s involvement in scientific racism, and allude to his own time there.
On the other hand, he could have been intellectually honest, even if doing so might have damaged his reputation, and acknowledged that we all know it today: The Racial Improvement Foundation and Battle Creek College were founded to provide intelligence for scientific racism support.
West could have admitted many of his actions at Battle Creek were inappropriate – and then lamented his role there in supporting scientific racism.
Instead of showing moral and intellectual courage by acknowledging his own human error, however, West chose the cowardly short-sighted path.
The West family ignored this important context as they continued to oppose NMU’s decision to remove his name from campus buildings. Someday, I hope the West family will remember West for who he is—a flawed man—and not the perfect person they have made in the collective memory today.
Aaron Loudenslager, former Northwind Opinion Editor (2012)
Editor’s Note: The north wind is cCommitted to providing a free and open forum for public thought, publishing a broad range of perspectives to accurately represent the NMU student body. This article is a letter to the editor written by a Northwind reader in response to the Northwind content. It only represents the author’s personal views and does not necessarily represent the views of Beifeng. Northwind reserves the right to refrain from publishing correspondence that does not meet Northwind’s publishing standards. To submit a letter to the editor, please contact the Opinion Editor: [email protected] The theme of the north wind letter.