With all of the discussion about the complexity of renaming things, there is one disgrace that the Minneapolis City Council could fix with hardly any complications. That is to change the shameful name of Dight Avenue in south Minneapolis.
Charles Dight (1856-1938) was a medical doctor, a Minneapolis alderman from 1914 to 1918 and a proponent of the then-popular eugenics movement. He was the chief advocate of a law regarding forced sterilization that was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 1925 (and not repealed until 1975). Dight’s use of eugenics resulted in this legislation, which was grounded on inadequate and incorrect scientific information and which endangered human rights.
In August 1933, Dight even communicated his views to Adolf Hitler, praising the German chancellor’s efforts “to stamp out mental inferiority among the German people.” Dight’s letter to Hitler enclosed a copy of a published letter that Dight had written to the editor of the Minneapolis Journal, praising Hitler’s eugenics plans and saying: “If carried out effectively, it will make him the leader in the greatest national movement for human betterment the world has ever seen.”
A copy of Dight’s letter to Hitler, written on the stationary of the Minnesota Eugenics Society, is in the files of the Minnesota Historical Society. The original of Hitler’s reply to Dight, a thank-you letter, is also in the files of the Minnesota Historical Society.
One might say that it is as inappropriate for the city of Minneapolis to have a street bearing the name of Dight as it would be to name a street after his hero, Adolf Hitler.
Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota House.