In a press conference today, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said Woodrow Wilson High School should be renamed.
Bowser’s statement comes after Princeton University decided to remove Wilson’s name from school buildings (Wilson was a former Princeton president) and joins a growing number of voices advocating for the school’s name to be changed. As of Tuesday, almost 19,000 people have signed a petition for DC Public Schools to change the name. President Wilson was a staunch segregationist and oversaw the resegregation of federal government offices.
Though other DC-area high schools named after racists and slaveowners have been renamed recently, many of those had been named after people who fought against the United States during the Civil War. Wilson, who was president between 1913 and 1921, rose to prominence well after the Confederacy was defeated. Though he had served as governor of New Jersey, his roots were in Virginia, and his attitudes towards African Americans reflected his background in the Jim Crow South. In Washington, where fair access to federal jobs enabled the growth of a vibrant Black middle class, he was particularly infamous because his administration oversaw the resegregation of many government jobs.
Though there has been sentiment to change the Wilson high school name for some time now, the movement has gained traction as historical names and statues are being reexamined across the country. Notable Wilson alums include Warren Buffett, Frank Rich, Ann Beattie, Adrian Fenty, and Ian MacKaye.
Bowser is also assembling a task force to examine other “statues or historical references” across the District to determine whether and how they need amending. Bowser expects recommendations to be made in the next few weeks.