(Oshkosh Examiner) On Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, nearly 40 individuals and departments associated with the University of Wisconsin Madison and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh were emailed this letter, which criticized each school’s treatment of the legacy of acting legend Fredric March and asked them to reconsider their decisions to remove his name from campus facilities.
The signatories, also listed below, include the two top officials of the NAACP, Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr., the late Ed Asner, eminent scholars and activists, and descendants of March.
Also below is an open letter from historian George Gonis in reply to Blank’s arguments.
SUBJECT: Racial-Justice Icons, Flagship Civil Rights Groups Ask UW, UWO to Reconsider Fredric March
Dear University of Wisconsin-Madison & University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Communities,
We the undersigned write you today because it has come to our attention that – due to the efforts of well-intentioned, nobly motivated students, administrators and community members guided solely by social-media rumor and grievously fact-free, mistaken conclusions – the name of Wisconsin native and Golden Age acting icon Fredric March (b. 1897) was stripped from both UW-Madison’s Fredric March Play Circle (in late 2018) and UW-Oshkosh’s Fredric March Theatre (in late 2020). These name removals took place when enough people chose to believe mere word of mouth that the two-time Oscar winner and two-time Tony winner was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (or its offshoot) and a white supremacist.
We know emphatically that not only was Fredric March not any of these — by a measure of 180 degrees — but that he was, to the contrary, for more than five decades one of 20th-century Hollywood’s earliest, greatest and most boisterous racial-justice activists. Indeed, for 30-plus-years – through the end of his life – he was a close ally of the NAACP upon whom the organization knew it could rely. And so we remain confused as to why, on both Wisconsin campuses, the avalanche of readily accessible primary- and secondary-source materials detailing Mr. March’s loud, concerted and enduring lifetime commitment to fighting racism and anti-Semitism was never pursued, discovered, consulted, heard or made public – and why neither UW-Madison nor UW-Oshkosh has moved to correct this clear and unconscionable rejection of conspicuously demonstrable historic truth and academic rigor.
Moreover, our statements here have been supported on the public record by a number of nationally revered and respected progressive academics and historians – and by individuals who actually knew Mr. March – including Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III (founding director of the John Lewis-birthed National Museum of African American History & Culture); civil rights author and professor Raymond Arsenault; performer/activist Harry Belafonte; actor/activist James Cromwell; and late UW-Madison professor Max Otto (Clarence Darrow/“Fighting Bob” La Follette intimate, NAACP compatriot and internationally acclaimed humanist philosopher).
When it comes to labeling Mr. March a civil rights hero, what other conclusion could one come to about a man who: Continue reading