Task force presents report of Henry Madden’s antisemitic views

In a photo presented by the library task force, Henry Madden (right) is shown in the summer of 1936, during his time as a student, “giving the Hitler salute.” (Courtesy of the university library)

Fresno State’s library task force, created by President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, released its preliminary report on Monday, in which it reviewed a potential name change for the Henry Madden Library.

During a Zoom presentation, the task force presented their findings in a public forum to Jiménez-Sandoval and attendees. 

The preliminary report concluded that Madden expressed deep antisemitic and pro-Nazi views before World War II during his time as a Fresno State administrator, which included violent statements and racist remarks toward the Jewish, African American, Chinese and Mexican communities. 

The task force found that Madden’s policies and actions as an administrator were influenced by his racist views. Madden donated his papers to the university after personally curating the contents, with full knowledge that they could contain antisemitic and racist statements, according to the task force.

“Throughout the report there appears to be a public Henry Madden and a private Henry Madden. The public knew this person that was building the library collection for his professional activities, but were not really aware of the private views that he had and how he was expressing them in private,” said Michael Lukens, executive director of Governmental Relations.

After reviewing over 100,000 documents, Bradley Hart said that when Madden took over as librarian in 1949 he made  “racist remarks about Jews and other individuals as the administrator of the California State University, Fresno.” 

According to Ethan J. Kytle, a Fresno State professor who was on the task force, Madden’s views impacted students of color and other diverse backgrounds at Fresno State.

Kytle said that Latino and African American students tend to view the library collection that Madden put together as “limited” and had “pushed” for Madden to stop “dragging his feet in terms of broadening” the books in the library’s collection.

The task force presented findings including pictures of Madden in the summer of 1936 during his time as a student, in which he can be seen “giving the Hitler salute” and “placing a tooth comb mustache under his nose,” with a written caption on the back of the photograph that reads “Adolf Hitler Madden (U.S.A.).” 

“Again, this is Dr. Madden posing for this photo. Presumably if he did not caption it, he was fully aware of the caption and he preserved this photograph that he donated to the university in 1982,” Kytle said.

Other findings presented by the task force included a letter to his mother from 1934, when Madden was a graduate student at Columbia University in New York City, in which he wrote, “I spent a good 20 minutes walking, looking all the time for an honest gentle face, and I don’t think I saw one. And such Jews! Noisy, dirty, smelly, ugly-Jews such as you never seen before, absolutely different from S.F. Jews. They seem to have a stronghold on everything.” 

The task forces’ findings are now released in a 71 page report to assist in informing Jiménez-Sandoval’s next step.

The task force was not charged with considering renaming the library. If a decision is made to change its name, it would be made by the Board of Trustees, and any renaming or removal of the current name of the library would go through a different process, according to Lukens.

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