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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

The Fight Over a School Named For a Brea Pioneer Who Happened to Be a Klansman

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Brea’s past and future collided on Jan. 14 outside the office of the Brea Olinda Unified School District in a fight over a dead white man. Representing the yonder days was a large group of baby boomers, people who grew up in an era when minorities made up less than 5 percent of the city’s population and whose parents were from a time when African-Americans were required to leave the city limits by sundown. They hovered around a table that offered William E. Fanning Elementary shirts, named after the founder of Brea’s schools. Also available: signs that read, “Don’t Be Bullied!” and how-to guides for recalling elected officials. Across the way, a multicultural coalition told a different story from atop a podium and through a bullhorn: Fanning was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920s and shouldn’t have a school named for him. And the city, which saw five of its first eight mayors and six of its early 10 councilmen belong to the Invisible Empire, needed to reckon with its racist legacy.

Read more on my latest OC Weekly cover story out on newsstands today:

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