Woodrow Wilson is perhaps best known as the 28th President of the United States. However, at Princeton University, the name of the Nobel Peace Prize winning politician from the Southern state of Virginia has begun to take on an additional association: racial discrimination.
The university’s Black Justice League has publicized the history of Wilson’s unwavering private and public support for racial segregation in the United States. According to leaders of the Princeton activists, this legacy of intolerance is not only an affront to minority students and staff, it also calls into question the appropriateness of university institutions continuing to carry the former President’s surname. Critics of the recent calls for on-campus name-changes are quick to remind, however, that the prestige which the university currently enjoys is due in no small measure to Wilson’s past leadership as one of the university’s early presidents.
According to an article appearing recently in the New York Times, the final decision over whether the names of certain campus mainstays such as the renowned “Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs” will undergo an onomastic make-over is in the hands of the University’s Board of Trustees. Although deleting the name Wilson will not right the wrongs done during the Wilsonian period, the discussion may well help current generations to appreciate the importance of protecting the civil rights which so many gave their lives to secure.