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Knight Library Vandalized; Graffiti Refers To Controversial Mural

Angee Ewen Brown

An overnight act of vandalism against a campus library has been condemned by the University of Oregon.

Photos taken this morning by a U of O employee  show the front metal gates of the Knight Library slathered in red paint, and a large section of broken glass fallen inside the foyer.

Among the spray-painted messages on the library steps was the question, “WHOSE RACIAL HERITAGE”?

Credit Angee Ewen Brown
Entrance to the Knight Library shows a large pane of glass that was covered in paint, then pushed or kicked into the foyer.

In 2018, a controversial mural inside the library was vandalized. Called “The Mission of a University” the 1937 piece refers to the preservation and betterment of  “our racial heritage”.  The Daily Emerald reported that a petition drive to have the mural removed received 1800 signatures.

Two weeks ago, activists pulled down statues of The Pioneer and Pioneer Mother. Critics saw them as symbols of white supremacy and colonization. Many statues, murals, and plaques have been revisited during the past month, as Black and Indigenous activists have challenged historical narrative.  While many Confederate statues have been toppled, a fair number of colonial and pioneer-era monuments have been defaced or removed as well, including those depicting explorer Christopher Columbus and conquistador Juan de Oñate.

Credit Emily Matlock / The Daily Emerald
The Daily Emerald
In this 2018 photo, "The Mission of a University" mural has had its reference to "our racial heritage" highlighted in red paint.

In a statement, the U of O says it supports the right to free expression and protest in this moment of national reckoning, but "cannot condone acts of destruction." 

The university adds in the same written release that they "will not let this act of violence distract us from the important, ongoing work in examining how our library resources can further promote equity and inclusion."

The Knight Library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Campus police are investigating.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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