Woodrow Wilson And Renaming Our History

On American college campuses right now, there is a fever on to call out racism, confront history, and rename college buildings. The biggest call of all may be over Woodrow Wilson. The 28th president of the United States is revered for many things, but on race he now looks pretty bad. Undeniably bad. Racist. So, should his name come off Princeton’s famed Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs? Is that fair? Is that necessary?  This hour On Point, American history, American racism, the American campus – and Woodrow Wilson.

On Point with Tom Ashbrook on WBUR


Joshua Guild, professor or history and African American studies at Princeton University. (@jbguild)

Julian Zelizer, professor of history at Princeton University and fellow at the New America Foundation. Author of “The Fierce Urgency of Now.” (@julianzelizer)

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN: Erasing Woodrow Wilson’s name is not that easy — “The truth is that the record of most political leaders is complicated. Most presidents and legislators have complex and often contradictory records that are difficult to judge. With Wilson, the question that has emerged for many observers is how to weigh his record of racism against the fact that he was one of the most progressive presidents at that point in history.”

New York Times: What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather — “Wilson, a Virginia-born Democrat, is mostly remembered as a progressive, internationalist statesman, a benign and wise leader, a father of modern American political science and one of our nation’s great presidents. But he was also an avowed racist. And unlike many of his predecessors and successors in the White House, he put that racism into action through public policy.”

The Nation: Woodrow Wilson, Princeton, and the Complex Landscape of Race — “ The past surrounds us at every turn: in the laws and cultural practices that have shaped our institutions and personal experiences, in the material culture of our everyday surroundings, in the very names we put on buildings. The protesters at Princeton remind us of that. They remind us, too, that history is dynamic.”

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