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Stanford to remove Serra name in latest debate over history

Sep 16, 2018 by

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Stanford University announced plans this week to remove the name of Fr. Junipero Serra, accused by critics of brutalizing indigenous people as he spread Catholicism throughout California in the 18th century, from two buildings and a key mall on campus, but will retain the name of the founder on other campus features.

Hours later, before the sun rose in San Francisco on Friday, workers removed from Civic Center Plaza the controversial “Early Days” statue, which depicted a partially-clothed Native American man lying at the feet of a Spanish settler and a Catholic missionary.

They’re the latest in a string of monuments, memorials and statues nationwide to fall to  criticism that they’re offensive to indigenous people, raising questions about how history  and its heroes are viewed in a more complex climate.

Stanford noted that while Serra was the “founder and clearly identified leader of the California mission system,” the legacy of the Roman Catholic priest includes the “harmful and violent impacts of the mission system on Native Americans, including through forced labor, forced living arrangements and corporal punishment.”

Outrage over controversial historical pieces or places that bear the names of historical figures isn’t new — but the end result is, according to Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College.

Source: Stanford to remove Serra name in latest debate over history

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