Woodrow Wilson’s Racist Legacy

The Poly Post broadcasts this ‘pandemonium, uproar, and chaos’ reported at Ivy league schools across the nation, especially regarding recent protests at Princeton University, where students are demanding a ‘change’ concerning the treatment of minorities that attend such a University with further analyzes done by Susan Svrluga from The Washington Post in 2015. Some might ask to what might be this ‘concern’, well that concern comes from Woodrow Wilson. As the audience reading this article assumption is key, that no one knows whom he might be.

This causes the writer to give the audience a chance to gain their own conclusion to what these students expect their Universities to do, especially in the case at Princeton University. Unsympathetic and unreceptive environment that surrounds the campus at Princeton University where students “believe an honest understanding of our past allows us to better scope our future and thus do not want Wilson’s history erased.” (Svrluga, 2015). According to Svrluga in 2015, students at Princeton University insisted that they do not only want to remove his name. Students demand the university to recognize the responsibility that comes with informing the public of Wilson’s racist legacy. One must first understand whom was Woodrow Wilson, and to why is he not an individual “fit” to be memorialized throughout a campus.

Woodrow Wilson accomplishments as: advocacy for national determination in international relations, the creation of the Federal Trade Commission, graduated income tax, and many other achievements, and let’s not forget he was also the President of the United States at one time (Schuessler, 2015). In her article in The New York Times, “Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy Gets Complicated,” Wilson is seen as this figure of modem liberalism, but also as a figure who’s attitudes about race, were segregated especially in his administration that included Southern racists. Princeton students are trying to demonstrate that the university that they attend, does not stand alone to belittle or purposely exclude someone based on their race, that everyone should feel welcomed.

Wilson’s attitudes on race and his incomprehensive political traditions, are not the characteristics of a progressive institution like Princeton University dictates they are, not their students feel crushed by racial discrimination and viciousness atmosphere on campus (Svrluga 2015). Princeton students want the university to see that times have changed and because of that, they as a whole, are not represented by a man that was a racist. To further be memorialized throughout their campus as someone that never made them feel unwelcomed based on their skin color. Wilson’s historical legacy as a man that created momentous cornerstones still used today is not the issue, but the part of what we as a society should remember vs. what is should be memorialized?

Wilson’s racism “didn’t stop at the nation’s borders,” articulated by Nathan Connolly a fellow historian from New York University, explained that just because Wilson did not start segregation/ discrimination does not mean that he stopped any of it from occurring (Schuessler, 2015). Connolly further clarified that by removing Wilson name from Princeton, will not change the outcome on race and segregation, however as a ‘whole,’ there can be an inclusion of the actual racists that did exist throughout history regardless of what accomplishment individuals might have done for the greater good (Schuessler, 2015). Schuessler found that Historians like Eric Yellin and John Milton Cooper explained their take from Woodrow Wilson’ s obstacle at Princeton University as something that yes he might have been a racist, nevertheless saying that all he did is clearly a joke.   

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