DC Mayor Wants to Scrub Democrat's Name From High School

Bowser throws support behind effort to erase Woodrow Wilson

June 30, 2020

Washington D.C.'s mayor wants to rename a local high school bearing the name of segregationist Democratic president Woodrow Wilson.

After years of petitioning, activists won the support of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D.) in their efforts to rename Woodrow Wilson High School. During a Tuesday press conference, Bowser said she supports the petition to remove the former Democratic president's name from the Tenleytown school.

"There is an opportunity for us to kind of step back and look at any statues or other historical references like the naming of a school, or rec center, or any other types of things like that in the District, and step back and look at them holistically.... I think that [Woodrow Wilson High School's name] should be changed," Bowser said. "We know the legacy of President Wilson. I think that it has been appropriately disavowed. It is particularly impactful here in the District, the seat of the federal government, his legacy of segregationist policy."

Bowser announced she would assign a task force to research racially insensitive street names, monuments, buildings, and anything else with "any historical reference."

The mayor's remarks came just days after Princeton University scrubbed Wilson—who was president of the university before becoming U.S. president—from the public policy program and residence hall that bore his name. Thousands of activists have rallied behind a petition to rename the D.C. high school. The D.C. History and Justice Collective called Wilson a "tarnished figurehead" in a letter asking Bowser to remove his name from the high school.

"We are urging you to join ... Princeton University in taking this white supremacist off the pedestal on which we have left him for far too long," the letter reads. "Washington may not be the fastest to end the shameful allegiance to a tarnished figurehead, but it can yet be the model for affirming our civic values over the racist history that continues to shape our city's inequities today."

The movement has found allies within D.C.'s education establishment. On Monday, Ruth Wattenberg, Ward Three member of the D.C. State Board of Education, told the Washington Free Beacon that Wilson's record on segregation outweighs his other accomplishments as a president and educator.

"Whatever else may be true of his life's work, here in D.C., he worked aggressively to segregate the federal civil service," Wattenberg said. "Naming a high school in D.C. after Woodrow Wilson is wrong."

Bowser is not the only elected official closely following the battle over Wilson's legacy. President Trump also took notice, saying on Twitter that the movement to tear down monuments or rename institutions reflects "incredible stupidity."

Campaigns to rename schools in the nation's capital, as well as in Maryland and Virginia suburbs, have succeeded in recent years. Last year, the Montgomery County Council president asked E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland, to rename itself because of Lee's segregationist policies. In 2018, Orr Elementary School in Northeast D.C. was rebranded as Lawrence Boone Elementary after the school discovered Benjamin Orr—the city's fourth mayor—was a slaveowner.