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Commission Recommends Former Mayor’s Picture be Removed From City Hall for Part in Racist Campaign

Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | 5:26 am
 

At left, Albert Stewart, the Pasadena Councilmember (later Mayor and State Assemblymember) who led the drive for “white only” real estate covenants in Pasadena in the 1940s [Pasadena Library Collection]. At right, former Hahn & Hahn managing partner Herbert L. Hahn. [Caltech]
The Human Relations Commission voted to recommend the City Council remove the portrait of a former mayor that led a racist campaign in the 1940s information designed to keep minorities from owning homes in the city.

The Commission also recommended the City Council strip a former lawyer of a prestigious award and remove a plaque honoring him from City Hall.

Earlier this year an email began circulating calling for the removal of A.I. Stewart photo from City Hall. Stewart served as Mayor of Pasadena from 1941 to 1943. 

The email also called for the City Council “as a body to acknowledge and apologize for the role City government played in  furthering racial segregation in Pasadena.”

On Tuesday, the Commission called for the City Council to change Pasadena’s civic narrative by removing the portrait of A.I. Stewart and posthumously stripping Herbert L. Hahn of the Arthur Noble award given to him in 1974 and removing his name from City Council Chambers.

Stewart and Hahn led the drive for white-only covenants in Pasadena real estate in the early part of the last century. The covenants were designed to stop African-American, Latino and Asian people from owning property in the city. 

Hahn formerly led the prestigious law firm, Hahn and Hahn. Hahn was awarded the Arthur Noble award in 1974. Currently a plaque honoring him hangs in the City Council chambers. 

Stewart and Hahn’s cause became the primary mission of the Pasadena Improvement Association in 1939 two weeks after African Americans sued to desegregate a local swimming pool.

The stated goal of the Pasadena Improvement Association was to place “race restrictions on all of the Pasadena residential districts now occupied by Caucasians” to prevent non-whites, especially African Americans, from being able to buy most of the homes in Pasadena.

“It is my understanding that the Pasadena Improvement Association’s primary purpose of placing race restrictions on all of the Pasadena residential districts occupied by “Caucasians,” resulting in one of the largest campaigns for racial segregation and discrimination in Pasadena’s history,” said Commissioner Brandon Lamer. “We are still seeing the effect from these decisions today. Yes, Pasadena is diverse but Black Pasadena continues to decline.”

The Commission also recommended the council publicly acknowledge that the historical establishment of racially restrictive housing covenants by A.I. Stewart and Hebert Hahn was unfair and continues to impact human relationships with residents of color in Pasadena to this day, honor truth in City Council Chambers by displaying the true historical account of Pasadena’s “campaign for racial segregation” and resulting ripple effects and open dialogue with all Pasadena residents to heal racially-motivated housing hurts in the past and present, identify short and long-term solutions, and promote racial unity and equity.

“I truly believe that all Pasadena’s former mayors should be listed as former mayors somewhere, but not all should be honored with civic pride in the City Hall Chambers, especially former Mayor Al Stewart,” said Commissioner Wilhelmina Robertson. “Due to Stewart’s hate-filled ideologies and choices, his portrait forever serves as a difficult reminder of all of Pasadena’s hate-filled people and their roles in perpetuating racism and housing segregation in Pasadena. Pasadena’s residents of color still severely struggle from the impact of Stewart’s choices to this day.”

Robertson provided research, which included newspaper articles.  

“The hatred which the Pasadena Improvement Association fostered resulted in many negroes losing their jobs and also denied non-white residents the ability to build intergenerational wealth through homeownership,” according to the research disseminated to the Commission. 

Earlier this year, Robertson asked the Commission to delay the discussion so the research could be done.  

According to that research Hahn served as a lawyer for the association. 

The City recently replaced a plaque in Mills Alley that failed to acknowledge that a fire that destroyed Asian business was the result of a racist attack, and a memorial was also set up at the Parson’s project on Walnut Street to acknowledge minority residents displaced by freeway construction.

Last year, a UCLA professor and Caltech removed the name of its founding president, Robert A. Millikan’s, from Caltech buildings, as well as his statue on campus, over his open support of eugenics and racism.

Millikan was a renowned physicist at Caltech who was its first professor to win a Nobel Prize. A contemporary of Albert Einstein, Millikan helped elevate Caltech into one of the leading research institutions in the United States.

The university also has approved the removal of the names of Harry Chandler, Ezra S. Gosney, William B. Munro, Henry M. Robinson, and Albert B. Ruddock from campus assets and honors.

“Millikan, together with individuals including E.S. Gosney, A.B. Ruddock, Harry Chandler, and William B. Munro, led an organization that widely advocated for forced sterilization of people with disabilities and actively supported and encouraged, and even took pride in, Nazi Germany’s 1933 forced sterilization law,” according to a petition circulated by Caltech alumnus  Michael Chwe.

The effort was supported by Hampton and then-District 3 Councilmember John Kennedy who was also investigating Millikan’s past association with eugenics and racism.

Kennedy said it was “unconscionable and un-American to place anyone in a position of reverence who was in any way involved in the forced sterilization of African American servicemen and African American women along with other groups of Americans.”

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