Jun 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Princeton drops Woodrow Wilson's name from school due to "racist thinking"

tudents walk on campus at Princeton University
Princeton campus. Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber announced Saturday the institution will remove President Woodrow Wilson's name from its public policy school and a residential college.

What Eisgruber is saying: "The trustees conclude that Woodrow Wilson's racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must firmly stand against racism in all its forms."

  • "Wilson's racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time. He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice."

The state of play: Princeton's board of trustees voted to remove the name Friday.

  • The policy school will now be known as the "The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs."
  • The College will be known as "First College." Princeton plans to accelerate renaming the school rather than wait two years for the construction of two new residential colleges to be completed.

Context: The Princeton University Board of Trustees noted students first protested the use of Wilson's name in 2015, which led to the creation of a committee to study Wilson's legacy at the school.

  • Wilson, the 28th U.S. president, segregated federal workers in Washington, D.C., blocked a Japanese proposal to include racial equality as a founding principal in the League of Nations, and hosted private White House screenings of "Birth of a Nation," Politico reports.
  • "Wilson may not have spearheaded the segregation initiatives...when criticized for them by black leaders and others he 'doubled down,' rationalizing segregation as a strategy to keep the racial peace and a benefit to blacks themselves," The New York Times writes.

Of note: Monmouth University in New Jersey announced it would remove Wilson's name from its marquee building on June 21, The New York Times reports.

Go deeper