On April 4, 2016, Princeton decided not to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson from its School of Public and International Affairs and from a residential college. This is despite calls from the student body to remove said name. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, is known as the man that led the United States to victory in World War I. What’s more, his yearning for a League of Nations and his Fourteen Points forever gave the world the impression that he was a champion of world peace and self-determination. It needs to be said that Woodrow Wilson was not all bad. He initiated the largest federal reforms the country had seen up to that point. He founded the Federal Reserve Bank to help the economy be more responsive to national economic conditions. He also appointed the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis. This, despite significant opposition both in Congress and the business community. He implemented the eight hour work day AND gave the Philippines self-governance.
Still, Woodrow Wilson was most definitely a racist. It was he who segregated Washington, DC and the federal government. Up to that point, the federal government was one of the few areas of employment where blacks had a chance to attain higher management positions. The year before he was appointed as President of Princeton he wrote the following:
An extraordinary and very perilous state of affairs had been created in the South by the sudden and absolute emancipation of the negroes, and it was not strange that the southern legislatures should deem it necessary to take extraordinary steps to guard against the manifest and pressing dangers which it entailed. Here was a vast ‘laboring, landless, homeless class,’ once slaves, now free; unpracticed in liberty, unschooled in self-control; never sobered by the discipline of self-support, never established in any habit of prudence; excited by a freedom they did not understand, exalted by false hopes; bewildered and without leaders, and yet insolent and aggressive; sick of work, covetous of pleasure,—a host of dusky children untimely put out of school….They were a danger to themselves as well as those whom they had once served….
The adverse effects Wilson's policies had on the black community, in Washington DC in particular, cannot be understated. Although no beacon for racial harmony, it was still far more integrated and diverse than most southern cities. With their federal government jobs, there was a small but vibrant middle class in the nation's capital. That was all to end during Wilson's two terms in office. I am fully aware that political correctness has gone way too far. However, what baffles me is why people are so adamant about keeping Wilson's name. There is no question that he had racist tendencies. Why do we have to celebrate that in the name of honoring our past? We have had racist, sexist, and homophobic presidents. It happened. We have to accept it, but we don't have to honor it.