Monmouth University renaming Woodrow Wilson Hall
Monmouth University will remove Woodrow Wilson’s names from the university’s marquee building, citing the 28th president’s racist policies, at a time when numerous monuments and honors given to figures associated with segregation or racism are being reassessed.
The decision comes four years after the New Jersey university’s trustees voted to keep Wilson’s name on the building amid student calls to rename it. President Patrick F. Leahy said “the context has changed” since then.
“Wilson was a controversial politician, and I think it has heightened awareness in 2020 about some of his racist policies,” Leahy told the New York Times.
Trustees on Thursday voted to rename Woodrow Wilson Hall the Great Hall at Shadow Lawn, the Times reported. The hall was not built until 1929, five years after the former president’s death, and was only named after him in 1966.
During his presidency, Wilson oversaw the re-segregation of the federal workforce and notoriously hosted a White House screening of D.W. Griffith’s pro-Ku Klux Klan film “The Birth of a Nation,” credited for inspiring the white supremacist group’s resurgence in the 1920s. Wilson reportedly praised the film as “like writing history with lightning.”
The decision stands in contrast to that of then-president Paul R. Brown in 2016, who said that while “Wilson’s racist views are abhorrent, he was a product of his time, and that judging the values of a previous era by our own standards could lead toward the path of erasing unpleasant facts of history, which is never an appropriate action for any academic institution.”
Wilson served as president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey before becoming president, and numerous places and institutions in the Garden State bear his name, including Camden’s Woodrow Wilson High School, which recently announced it will also change its name. “Our students will walk into a new building not tied to a building with a racist legacy,” Camden’s superintendent, Katrina McCombs, said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.