Tuesday, May 11, 2021

An Unpleasant Footnote on the Sam Brown House

You might recall some attention a couple years ago to the historic Sam Brown House in Gervais.

October 2019

But there's an unsavory footnote, relevant to our current moment, that has been more than a little elided and perhaps even deliberately thrust down the memory hole.

The other day Willamette University Historian Seth Cotlar, who has a large secondary project on the history of conservatism, turned up this note about one of the Brown family.

via Twitter

The full clip, April 20th, 1940

Kenneth Brown was the Grandson of Sam Brown, settler and builder of the house, but the Nomination Form from 1974 says nothing about him, including notes only on Sam II, Kenneth's father.

The narrative stops with father, Sen. Sam Brown

Benign image of filbert farmer (Oct 2019)

The SJ story from 2019 mentions him, but only as a filbert farmer, and with a soft focus on nostalgia and heirlooms.

It's not clear how much of a presence the Silver Shirts had here in and around Salem, but earlier in 1933, the morning paper in Salem editorialized about them, clear-eyed about the virulence of antisemitism, yet confident it "will not go very far."

October 4th, 1933

This was only a decade after the Second Klan's revival, and it is striking how quickly things turned in the Salem area over a two year period. In 1921 there seemed to be preventative sentiment. In 1922 they failed in recruiting. In 1923, they opened shop and seemed popular. The same morning paper seemed to celebrate them, a shift in tone from 1921.

August 5th, 1921

Nov. 6th, 1922

Nov. 10th, 1923

The Silver Shirts sought distance from the Klan, and yet they should be understood as a neighboring species of right-wing extremism, and a kind of successor.

As we fight our current recrudescence of fascist interest and white supremacy, there's a tradition of it right here that we may be minimizing. As an historical thing, especially as represented in our official public and popular histories, as opposed to more specialist and academic history, it is more deeply rooted than many of us might like to think.

After all, our historical self-understanding with Jason Lee as a kind of founder is associated with building "a free state for the Anglo Saxon." This is in 1929, well after Emancipation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

March 19th, 1929

Our popular histories and our journalism should attend more to conflict and power. A harmonizing approach that aspires to an ostensibly even-handed balance is unable to respond properly to our current moment.

January 7th

No comments: