June 17, 2020

Noting That It is Time for PU to Divorce Itself From Wilson Legacy

To the Editor:

Why must we live in the shadow of Woodrow Wilson?

Black and brown folks throughout the South have lived their entire lives in the shadow of statues and buildings named in honor of those who advocated for their subjugation and marginalization. As our society comes to terms with its racist past and present, those statues are finally falling. Buildings are being renamed. It is a first step whereby our society reckons with the reality that those held up as heroes are in fact the perpetrators of the horrors of our racist society. As a first step in healing the wounds of a racist legacy, it is long overdue.

Not only is it long overdue in the South. It is long overdue right here in our hometown. In Princeton, we see no movement from the University to reverse course and rename the Woodrow Wilson School. In 2015, the University took the mind-boggling position that Wilson’s legacy was complicated and nuanced, and we must see him in that light. Therefore, the University kept his name on buildings as well as its association with the school.

Wilson’s history is not complicated or nuanced when it comes to race. To say that Wilson was anything other than a racist is straight-up nonsense. Princeton University has an obligation to its students, faculty, and staff — as well as this community — to lift the shadow of Wilson by removing his name from the school. It is time for the University to fully and completely come to terms with its racist past and divorce itself from the legacy of Wilson and his racist views. If they cannot do it now, when will they?

Frank (Dean) Smith
Maclean Street