Persona Non Grata: Princeton Agrees To Explore Removing Woodrow Wilson’s Image and Name In Agreement With Protesters

220px-Princeton_shield.svgThomas_Woodrow_Wilson,_Harris_&_Ewing_bw_photo_portrait,_1919Princeton University has agreed to explore the removal of the name and images of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from buildings and school programs under a deal signed with protesters who objected to Wilson’s support of segregation, which was legal at the time. This action occurs as Harvard Law students have demanded the dropping of the school seal due to a connection to a slaveholder.

Princeton has long (and rightfully) been proud of its association with Wilson. Wilson, besides being the 28th President of the United States, was the thirteenth president of Princeton. He was also a member of the Class of 1879. As president, Wilson helped transform the school into a major world-class university, including a restructuring of departments and investment in new innovations and buildings. He was a brilliant academic whose writings are still widely cited (indeed, I have both praised and criticized those writings in different respects).

eisgruber-sidebarThe recent protests were led by “Black Justice League” and involved a 32-hour sit-in outside Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber’s office. The students also demanded a cultural competency and diversity training program and to designate space on campus for “cultural affinity” groups. Eisgruber agreed to consider stripping the school of its most renown association and praised the protesters for their “willingness . . . to work with us to find a way forward”.

This would involve removing a large number of portraits and references, including Wilson’s name on the university’s world renown Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

While Wilson was a leader of the Progressive Movement he also supported racial segregation, which was not banned until the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Harold_Wilson_(6)I believe such an effort would unfair to Wilson and deeply regrettable for the university. Wilson was truly a great leader both for his achievements as an academic and a world leader. I have serious qualms about various views of Wilson including the position on segregation. There was also his support for the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress the war movement — leading to the Palmer raids. I have long been a critic of those Wilsonian era effects. However, his work also included his foundational work on the League of Nations and the creation of new international principles to avoid wars. He was a voice for incorporating moral principles into international law. Wilson was critical in moving American foreign policy from isolation to internationalism and many credit him with laying the bedrock principles for international law. He was a critic of European imperialism and called for national self-determination for ethic groups. While many may disagree with the policies, he also laid the foundation for banking reform under the Federal Reserve System as well as support for labor and collective bargaining. While many would later call his brand of idealism in international law naive, it was a different view of the role of international organizations. Indeed, while the League of Nations failed, it became a model for the United Nations. We can hold strong views against positions of past leaders like Wilson while recognizing that they played a transformative role in other areas like international law as well as academic contributions.

It is also important to note that segregation principles not just the majority viewpoint of Americans at the time but the law. Many people at the time — not the least of which was the United Supreme Court justices — believed that “separate but equal” was constitutional.  Brown v. Board of Education was not handed down until 1954 in finding that segregation violated the Constitution.  That was 30 years after the death of Woodrow Wilson.

The effort to sanitize our history ignores one of the key components of the intellectual exercise on campuses: to consider sources and writings in their historical and social context. This does not mean that Wilson should not be identified as a segregationist and his legacy balanced against such views. However, it is important to consider the time in which he lived and lead. There is much about Wilson to be celebrated and honored, particularly at the school that he helped make one of the world’s greatest educational institutions.

62 thoughts on “Persona Non Grata: Princeton Agrees To Explore Removing Woodrow Wilson’s Image and Name In Agreement With Protesters”

  1. The revolutionaries devour their own. GOOD. He was an internationalist and a collaborator with the Federal Reserve. Toss him overboard already.

  2. How about if these politically correct students stop applying to these universities with these “offensive” historical affiliations?

  3. Woodrow was the last President who was a Democrat who opposed the Reconstruction Era. Thereafter the two parties sort of changed sides of the aisle. The Republicons became the party of big business and forgot about Lincoln. The Democrats became more progressive, After Woodrow we got Coolidge and Hoover who were not the Party of Lincoln and then along came FDR. He was a Progressive but he was not ready for desegregation. After he croaked we got Harry and he was ready for desegregation and he did it by Executive Order. The Dems who followed were fairly good except for Carter who left our hostages in Iran. The Repubs adopted the Southern Strategy in response to LBJ’s stance on the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act and the Republicons took over the old South. They became Jim Crows all the way. Google: Lee Atwater and the Southern Strategy. They do not call Obama the N word in public but they know that if they say Obamacare that the herd will get their meaning. Today Woodrow would be a Republican– or Con. Lincoln is rolling over in his grave. Princeton would do right by no longer honoring the bigot.

  4. “rcocean – the Punitive force was in Mexico less than a year. That is hardly getting bogged down.”

    Wilson occupied Veracruz in April 1914 for seven months and border clashes between Mexicans and Americans continued all the way through 1919.

    1. Occupying is a strong word to use during a rebellion in which you do not know whose side you are fighting on. Border clashes continue today, but Wilson is dead.

  5. BarkinDog, “The RepubliCon Party is the Party of Lincoln.”

    Did you say Lincoln?


    Abraham Lincoln –

    “If all earthly power were given me,” said Lincoln in a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, “I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” After acknowledging that this plan’s “sudden execution is impossible,” he asked whether freed blacks should be made “politically and socially our equals?” “My own feelings will not admit of this,” he said, “and [even] if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not … We can not, then, make them equals.”5

  6. BTW, Wilson also got us bogged down in Mexico and did a couple has-assed invasions which killed a bunch of people and pissed off the Mexicans but otherwise accomplished nothing. He reminds me of LBJ or Clinton – always using military power in an incompetent and/or feeble way and getting a bunch of people killed.

    1. rcocean – the Punitive force was in Mexico less than a year. That is hardly getting bogged down.

  7. Its funny that Wilson got 50,000 Americans killed in a useless war and helped draw up the Versailles Treaty – which set the stage for WW2, and refused to supply aid to the White Generals who were trying to destroy Lenin and Trotsky.

    Yet, what gets him whitewashed from Princeton, his support for segregation, which pretty much everyone did back in 1919. In fact, it was so standard most of the history books written before 1950 don’t even mention it.

  8. This is a great idea!

    Since George Washington was a slave holder and a racist we should change the name of our nations capital to Trayvonville!

  9. “It is extremely short-sighted to sacrifice universal principle on the altar of identity politics for the sake of marginalized groups.”

    1. The truth shall set you free my brother. I was speaking to an attorney last night and we were talking about my book. He practices in about 6 different counties and he called the Miami Dade court system lawless. Telling story after story of the unconscionable antics of some the Judges he had faced. I’ve known this guy for many years and he even represented me a couple of times and we won both cases. One very important which sets us up to potentially quite title on 1st and 2nd mortgages ($400,000). We have a 5 year Statute of limitations here in Florida and a case of this issue is at the Florida Supreme Court right now. The hearing lasted an entire 15 minutes. What differentiates my case from this one, is that I’m the owner but I am not the mortgagor. The point of my telling you this is our rule of law has been abrogated to such a degree, that it is now a law by those who rule. We can all see what is happening when you have to much power in the hands of to few people. I refuse to believe that their is no solution. The difficult thing is to get people to acknowledge what the problems are before we can come up with a solution.

      I think issues like this are kind of important, as we are listening to the complaints and hopefully we can address and correct the ills of the past.

      People need to know the truths about Lincoln. It is now quite clear from historical facts, he was an elitist scumbag and many historians have been covering this up to hide the true political agenda of he and his cronies within the Republican and Democratic Parties .

  10. From the New York Times, Dec. 28, 1860 (

    ‘From Lincoln’s Speech, Sept. 18, 1858.

    “While I was at the hotel to-day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making VOTERS or jurors of negroes, NOR OF QUALIFYING THEM HOLD OFFICE, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any of her man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” ‘

    Lincoln was a racist. It’s time to take him off the penny and $5 bill and everywhere else!

    “La révolution dévore ses enfants” (Mallet du Pan) and it is fun to watch!

    1. In the books The Real Lincoln and Lincoln Unmasked, Prof and economist Thomas DiLorenzo provides the evidence that Lincoln was even much more of the shyster politician then that. Doesn’t he sounds like he could be a member of the KKK? He was apparently a brilliant Attorney making huge fees by representing some of the major railroads of that time and obviously a brilliant speech writer and orator.

      It appears from the book, the only reason he wanted the abolition of slavery is to then be able to deport them to either Liberia and/or Panama. In addition to his poor character, you’ll get a much better understanding of the economic and social polices behind the war. What was as interesting to me in Lincoln Unmasked, he shows the intellectual battle going on between the historians, those who he calls the Gatekeepers; those that are trying to maintain Lincoln’s Good Old Honest Abe persona and those, like himself that are bringing out facts that contradict it. There is quite a bit on this and the book has one of the largest resource and bibliography sections that you will see.

  11. While the “protesters” are busy rewriting history, let’s encourage them to overturn the results of the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, or even deny they ever happened at all. Then someone who is at least a competent leader, someone who doesn’t want to remake the USA into a Muslim nation, someone who isn’t intent on bankrupting the country with trillions of dollars of new debt each year can be written in as the revised-history president before the trump card is played in 2016. This obamanation could instantly become peaceful and prosperous again. No records of bad elections, bad presidents in the past: they didn’t happen, they didn’t exist. Long live Double-Think!

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