We, the undersigned, call on D.C. Public Schools to change the name of Woodrow Wilson High School to one that better reflects the school’s values of diversity, inclusion, and equality of aspirations for students of all colors and backgrounds.
President Woodrow Wilson, the nation’s 28th President, is remembered as a progressive, internationalist statesman and one of the nation’s great presidents. Yet Wilson was also a committed segregationist who -- unlike many of his predecessors or successors -- put his racism into action through public policy, in ways that were particularly harmful to the District of Columbia and its residents.
Until Wilson took office in 1913, employment by the federal government was an engine of growth for the Black middle class in the District of Columbia. Wilson’s Administration presided over implementation of Jim Crow policies and white supremacy at the heart of the nation: overseeing demotion and firings of Black workers, isolating them in “Negro corners,” forcing them to use “colored” toilets, and erecting “Whites Only” signs in federal buildings. Under the systematic purge approved by Wilson, virtually all Black federal workers were removed from management responsibilities, moved to menial jobs or simply dismissed.
As a group of Wilson teachers wrote in a 2015 petition, “we do a disservice to all students by remaining uncritical and silent on the legacy of Woodrow Wilson.”
We are committed to finding a better namesake for the school who embodies the values our students, families, faculty, alumni and city as a whole aspire to uphold every day, and we call on D.C. Public Schools to join us in this effort.
Want to know more about Woodrow Wilson’s policies, the destruction of Reno City, and Woodrow Wilson High School? For more information, visit us at renamewilsonhs.org and follow us on Twitter @history_dc.