Berkeley to Rename School Dedicated to Slave-owning Sierra Club Co-Founder

Joseph LeConte (Wikimedia Commons)
Wikimedia Commons

The Berkeley, California, school board voted Wednesday to change the name of a local elementary school named for Joseph LeConte, who was a co-founder of the Sierra Club — and a slave owner who backed the Confederacy.

The Sierra Club is a left-wing environmental organization that often advocates for radical policies on climate change and other issues.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

For decades, a Berkeley elementary school has carried the name of a prominent conservationist and co-founder of the Sierra Club.

But that 19th century geologist, Joseph LeConte, was also a slave owner and munitions supplier to the Confederacy during the Civil War, and parents want his name off their children’s school.

The Berkeley school board honored that request Wednesday evening, voting to strip the LeConte name off the school and launch a process to select a new moniker.

In 1892, when the school was named, LeConte was a renowned professor at UC Berkeley, joining the faculty after the Civil War.

Jones owned a massive plantation with 200 slaves. The school district’s superintendent, Donald Evans, reportedly said: “He [Jones] believed that it would take centuries of evolution to put races on an equal footing.”

LeConte is not the only liberal icon to be linked to racist and eugenicist views, which were fairly common among “progressives” of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of them backed segregation in the South, partly out of racism but also because of their belief in government intervention in society.

There is at least one other California school named for LeConte. The Joseph LeConte Middle School, right in the heart of liberal Hollywood, California, is another. A section of the school website, “Who Is Joseph LeConte?”, refers to the Wikipedia entry about LeConte, which omits any mention of slavery.

LeConte is also honored in monuments on the University of California Berkeley campus.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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