NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – In Camden, the school superintendent announced Tuesday that Woodrow Wilson High School would be renamed.
In Clifton, the school board has for now decided against taking action despite mounting pressure from some in the Passaic County town to change the name of Woodrow Wilson and Christopher Columbus middle schools.
In Long Branch, officials at Monmouth University announced Friday they have removed Woodrow Wilson’s name from one of their lecture halls.
In New Brunswick, there is a call to rename Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
A petition uploaded to change.org was “signed” by more than 200 people as of Friday afternoon.
The school on Tunision Road was home to 417 students in grades K-8 during the 2018-19 school year, according to state records. Those records show that about 72% of the students were Hispanic and about 16.5% were black.
Wilson, the 28th president, was a racist and a bigot who “acted as a roadblock to racial and social progress in the United States,” according to the petition. “During his presidency, Wilson implemented federal policies that subjugated African Americans and excluded them from jobs, civil liberties and prosperity.”
Presidents, explorers and other historical figures who have literally been put up on pedestals in the past have come under greater scrutiny in recent weeks. In the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, after he was pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis, Minn., police officer for about 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the call to drive out societal and systematic injustices has reverberated in city streets across the United States. There have been cries across the country to remove statues depicting Columbus, confederate generals and others who are seen by some to be symbols of injustice and racism. There has also been a movement to remove their names from schools and government buildings.
Wilson’s shadow looms particularly large in New Jersey 99 years after he left the White House after two terms. The calls to have his name removed from a building at Princeton University, where he served as president, goes back several years.
Even when Gov. Phil Murphy recently took part in a nationwide moment of silence to remember Floyd, he was photographed with hands clasped in prayer at Drumthwacket seated at a desk adorned with a brass sign declaring it Woodrow Wilson’s desk.
At one of his daily COVID-19 news conferences, Murphy, an ex-officio member of the university’s board of trustees, was asked about Wilson, the desk and whether the university should expunge his name.
“I'll be charitable, uneven history as it relates to race and Princeton University, of which he was the former president, has been, I think, very soulful and very reflective on that reality,” Murphy said earlier this week. “It's a good question. I don't want you to think that I sought out a Woodrow Wilson desk though to pose behind. That's the desk I sit behind every day, but it's a very, very fair point to be raised.”
“To date, no petition has been submitted to the school district," said Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson in a statement provided to TAPinto New Brunswick. "That said, we always listen to and consider ideas shared with us by the New Brunswick community.”