New Jersey governor no longer using Woodrow Wilson's desk

New Jersey governor no longer using Woodrow Wilson's desk
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has ended his use of a desk formerly owned by Woodrow Wilson as reassessments of the United States' racial history have led to fresh scrutiny of the former governor and 28th president’s racist policies.

Social media took notice of the desk when Murphy tweeted a picture of himself behind it observing a moment of silence for George Floyd, the unarmed Black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis in May, leading some to point out the irony, as Wilson oversaw the re-segregation of the federal workforce and hosted a screening of the pro-Ku Klux Klan film “Birth of a Nation” at the White House.

Murphy said he had forgotten the desk bore a plaque identifying it as belonging to Wilson and reportedly said in a news conference Monday, “As soon as I could get a replacement, which was not as easy as I thought, I got one and I think that was the right thing to do.”

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The governor said that amid the “reckoning” on race in America, "Woodrow Wilson and his legacy is being swept up in that, as it should be."

Higher education in the Garden State is also reassessing Wilson, who served as president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, during which time he denied admittance to Black men. The university announced over the weekend it would remove Wilson’s name from its school of public policy.

"Wilson's racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time," Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a statement. “He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today."

While the removal or renaming of historical figures associated with racism in U.S. history has largely involved those associated with the Confederacy, recent weeks have also seen the removal of Philadelphia’s statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo (D) as well as the renaming of the University of Cincinnati’s baseball stadium to remove the name of former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott.