Woodrow Wilson: paradox in prejudice

Early last year, students at Dallas’ John B. Hood Middle School voted by a 60 percent majority to drop their school name because of Gen. John Hood’s Confederate support of slavery during the Civil War.
Two thoughts came to mind as I read and followed that story in the Dallas paper. The first was my praise and applause for the school administration to provide a lesson in democracy by allowing the students to discuss and vote on the issue.
My second thought had to do with another Dallas school’s name, Woodrow Wilson High School, in the Lakewood area. “Would Wilson’s students also want a name change if they knew about his prejudicial administration?”
On the plus side of evaluating Wilson’s Presidency, he is commonly enumerated in most of the lists of “top 10 U.S. presidents,” and has been honored both nationally and internationally in numerous ways and places.
Additionally, Wilson, a former history professor and Princeton University president, was the author of many books.
With all the accolades President Wilson received and deserves, there is one condemnation he also richly deserves. He was a racist toward African-Americans and, once becoming president of the United States, he transformed the federal bureaucracy into a “whites only” system.
Although Wilson’s parents were from the north, they had moved south, and his earliest memories were of hearing the news in South Carolina of Lincoln’s election and the start of the war.
Wilson’s father, a pro-slavery minister, referred to blacks as “ignorant and inferior.” His son’s writings after the war followed the father’s prejudicial beliefs.
Wilson supported the Black Codes, restrictions imposed by southern states after the Civil War, to “help” the ex-slaves whom he claimed needed the help of their former masters. He argued that Reconstruction, not slavery, was the cause of racial problems.
While president of Princeton in 1921, he blocked admittance of black students, suggesting that they apply to the Seminary, which was not part of the main university.
Undoing integration
Wilson blocked black students’ admission to Princeton even though blacks had graduated from Dartmouth and Rutgers many years earlier. This was not an “Ivy League” restriction.
When Wilson’s administration arrived in Washington, they found that unlike the rest of Washington, D.C., the offices of government were integrated by previous administrations. But not for long.
Under Wilson, blacks were ousted and job applicants had to submit photos to ensure “proper choice” of employees. All of Washington, D.C. had reverted back to segregation. He also refused to support the movement for black civil rights.
With regard to another minority, Jews, Wilson’s attitude was positive and beneficent. He supported Jewish minorities in Eastern Europe and urged approval of the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate over Palestine. The president’s appointment of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court also showed his friendliness to Jews.
For all the good he did for Jews and the nation, Woodrow Wilson deserves credit. For all the good he could have done for blacks, but chose not to, shouldn’t he get “discredit” as well?

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