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Old 11-24-2015, 06:44 AM
 
Location: Jamestown, NY
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Against the backdrop of the recent protests by Princeton University students to have Woodrow Wilson's name removed from campus buildings (Wilson was president of Princeton before he was Governor of New Jersey and later POTUS), I found this article about the personal consequences of Wilson's election to the presidency had on one black individual and his family: What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather. It's all well and good to read and/or discuss the results of historical events in the abstract, but when you put faces and names to the results, those results finally become "real".

Wilson's racism has long been common knowledge among historians, but it seems that the Princeton students may make it common knowledge among the general public. I don't know if Wilson's name should be removed from the Princeton campus, but I do think that we should look at Wilson as he really was and not the Wilson of myth. Somehow Wilson has managed to keep a spotless reputation among the public when, in fact, he committed bigger sins than other Presidents who have been mercilessly raked over the coals. His racism is one sin, but a bigger one, IMO, was his maneuvering the US into WW I.
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Old 11-24-2015, 07:10 AM
 
Location: On the Great South Bay
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Originally Posted by Linda_d View Post
Against the backdrop of the recent protests by Princeton University students to have Woodrow Wilson's name removed from campus buildings (Wilson was president of Princeton before he was Governor of New Jersey and later POTUS), I found this article about the personal consequences of Wilson's election to the presidency had on one black individual and his family: What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather. It's all well and good to read and/or discuss the results of historical events in the abstract, but when you put faces and names to the results, those results finally become "real".

Wilson's racism has long been common knowledge among historians, but it seems that the Princeton students may make it common knowledge among the general public. I don't know if Wilson's name should be removed from the Princeton campus, but I do think that we should look at Wilson as he really was and not the Wilson of myth. Somehow Wilson has managed to keep a spotless reputation among the public when, in fact, he committed bigger sins than other Presidents who have been mercilessly raked over the coals. His racism is one sin, but a bigger one, IMO, was his maneuvering the US into WW I.
Woodrow Wilson was born in the South before the Civil War. He moved up North to New Jersey and became President of Princeton University and later Governor of New Jersey

I am not going to defend him but his racism was a product of his times. I would not advocate naming new buildings and monuments after him but it strikes me as PC to try to change buildings already with his name. Especially when he was President of Princeton.

The real problem I have by far with Wilson is what you said in your last sentence. His behavior both during WW1 and also at the Peace Conference. And what he did had consequences for WW2 as well.
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Old 11-24-2015, 07:15 AM
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Location: NYC
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Originally Posted by LINative View Post
Woodrow Wilson was born in the South before the Civil War. He moved up North to New Jersey and became President of Princeton University and later Governor of New Jersey

I am not going to defend him but his racism was a product of his times.
He was far more racist than previous presidents. He re-segregated the federal workforce, it had been integrated for decades. It's more than just "his times".
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Old 11-24-2015, 02:16 PM
 
Location: On the Great South Bay
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He was far more racist than previous presidents. He re-segregated the federal workforce, it had been integrated for decades. It's more than just "his times".
I will say it again, he was a product of his times.

Do you think if he was alive today he would still think like that???
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Old 11-24-2015, 02:16 PM
 
10,778 posts, read 10,386,602 times
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
He was far more racist than previous presidents. He re-segregated the federal workforce, it had been integrated for decades. It's more than just "his times".
That's hardly the whole story. As another poster, Wilson was a southerner and didn't hold very enlightened views on race. However, many didn't at that time in history and it wasn't just limited to southerners.

A very few government jobs were open to African Americans in 1913 (beginning of the Wilson Presidency) in the federal government. They were primarily jobs like postal clerk in the post office and printer's assistant in the department of the treasury. Wilson's Postmaster General, Burleson, and his Secretary of the Treasury, MacAdoo, were also southerners and they were the impetus that resulted in a number of blacks losing their government jobs. Scott Berg's book, Wilson, describes this process in some detail. Wilson is primarily guilty for what he didn't do, than for what he did do. He should have intervened and stopped these dismissals, but he didn't.

Wilson's presidency lasted eight years and there were other occasions where he actually did weigh in against racism. For example, in 1918, a group of black soldiers at a military base near Houston, Texas rioted and in a confrontation with citizens from Houston approximately 40 people died. A court martial condemned many black soldiers to death for their actions in these riots. Some were hanged. However, Wilson stepped in and commuted the death sentences of a number of these men because he realized that the soldiers had largely been provoked into what they had done by actions of those living in Houston.

Wilson seems a handy target today for some people. I think conservatives seem particularly venomous towards him because of his progressive agenda and support for liberal causes. However, some liberals focus entirely on the issue about removing black employees from their jobs and label him a "racist bigot". The real truth is that Wilson was a complex individual. He had good ideas. He had bad ideas. He was a product of his upbringing--just like all of us are.

The civil rights problem is enough of an issue for me that I could not select Wilson as one of the ten greatest Presidents. However, he accomplished a great deal in office that benefited people of all colors. For example, he got antitrust legislation through Congress that allowed for the prosecution of price fixing and anti competitive practices. He supported women's suffrage and was President when that amendment was enacted. He obtained the legislation establishing the federal reserve system. He strengthened the process allowing for regulation of railroad freight rates. He kept America out of World War I for most of the duration of that war and than succeeded in obtaining a victory over Germany in approximately eighteen months. Few presidents have had as much success with Congress as Wilson had.

That's a real description of Wilson and his presidency.

If the administration at Princeton removes Wilson's name from monuments or buildings than it as example of what a bad thing political correctness has become in this USA.
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Old 11-24-2015, 02:20 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: NYC
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Originally Posted by LINative View Post
I will say it again, he was a product of his times.

Do you think if he was alive today he would still think like that???
No, but he wasn't typical of his time, either. Theodore Roosevelt would have never engaged in similar actions.
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Old 11-24-2015, 02:33 PM
 
Location: On the Great South Bay
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
No, but he wasn't typical of his time, either. Theodore Roosevelt would have never engaged in similar actions.
Theodore Roosevelt was a New Yorker so it is not surprising he was a great President but Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia before the Civil War. His parents were slaveholders. Everyone around him when he was growing up was angry about the lost cause. It is not surprising that would affect his world views.

I am neither a Democrat or a great fan of Wilson. I think his foreign policy turned out to be a disaster. But I still believe he was a complex man of his times, both right and wrong, and should be judged accordingly by historians not simply by PC populists today.
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Old 11-24-2015, 02:46 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: NYC
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Originally Posted by LINative View Post
Theodore Roosevelt was a New Yorker so it is not surprising he was a great President but Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia before the Civil War. His parents were slaveholders. Everyone around him when he was growing up was angry about the lost cause. It is not surprising that would affect his world views.
Sure, but then it wasn't just a product of his time but a partly a product of being from the south.

Quote:
I am neither a Democrat or a great fan of Wilson. I think his foreign policy turned out to be a disaster. But I still believe he was a complex man of his times, both right and wrong, and should be judged accordingly by historians not simply by PC populists today.
Sure, we can acknowledge his accomplishments. But yes, he should be judged for his racism especially since his was worse than typical politicians of the era and more consequences. In contrast, Calvin Coolidge not only didn't praise the Birth of a Nation he tried to prevent from being shown in Boston theaters.

https://coolidgefoundation.org/resou...-addresses-34/

And I neither a Republican or a great fan of Coolidge. Though I agree much of Wilson's foreign policy was a disaster (more of well-intentioned but poorly executed).
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Old 11-24-2015, 02:50 PM
 
9,982 posts, read 7,267,438 times
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Originally Posted by Linda_d View Post
Against the backdrop of the recent protests by Princeton University students to have Woodrow Wilson's name removed from campus buildings (Wilson was president of Princeton before he was Governor of New Jersey and later POTUS), I found this article about the personal consequences of Wilson's election to the presidency had on one black individual and his family: What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather. It's all well and good to read and/or discuss the results of historical events in the abstract, but when you put faces and names to the results, those results finally become "real".
The author fails to demonstrate that WW was responsible for his grandfather's demotion.
How do we know there were not other reasons for it ?
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Old 11-24-2015, 04:23 PM
 
11,315 posts, read 8,759,964 times
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
Sure, but then it wasn't just a product of his time but a partly a product of being from the south.



Sure, we can acknowledge his accomplishments. But yes, he should be judged for his racism especially since his was worse than typical politicians of the era and more consequences. In contrast, Calvin Coolidge not only didn't praise the Birth of a Nation he tried to prevent from being shown in Boston theaters.

https://coolidgefoundation.org/resou...-addresses-34/

And I neither a Republican or a great fan of Coolidge. Though I agree much of Wilson's foreign policy was a disaster (more of well-intentioned but poorly executed).
So.. Do we judge the man as a whole, or on individual things? Or only on individual things if they're 'bad' enough? Who decides what is bad enough?

If we were to find out that JFK routinely dropped the N bomb.. Do we dig him out of Arlington, extinguish the eternal flame and blot him out of the history books?

Look back on us 100 years from now.. How will we be viewed? Racist for debating whether or not we should arrest and deport illegal immigrants or treasonous for the same reason? All depends on how history plays out between now and then.

I think you absolutely have to take the times into consideration. Were Wilson's views out of the ordinary for the times? Most likely not. Were the things he did acceptable in today's world? Absolutely not. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves(and did more in TJ's case).. Noone (serious) is really calling for their names to be taken off things.. Why? Because, they were in line with their contemporaries.

As I remember, and I may not remember accurately here.. Wasn't FDR often pissed off at Eleanor because she did things that annoyed his base, like insisting on having a black pilot fly her in a WWII fighter plane? Not because he was racist, but because it hurt him politically with the southern Democrats. Should that affect his legacy? Not in my opinion. It shouldn't be covered up, but it shouldn't be the first thing that comes to mind in a conversation about him.

And, touching back on the 'who decides' part.. Think about the confederate flag.. If you did an HONEST poll on it.. I think you'd find 10% who wanted it gone, 10% who wanted it to stay, and 80% who really didn't give a rats ass personally.. But said "well, if group A is offended".. You could probably sub that 80% into a percentage who said "well, if this will shut them up..".. Which side they came down on doesn't really matter.. They didn't REALLY care.. They just went with one side or the other.
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