DC’s Woodrow Wilson High School stands on the edge of what was a thriving black middle class neighborhood until it was systematically dismantled by the actions of white supremacists including… President Woodrow Wilson. (Neil Flanagan details the history in his unflinching and deeply researched 2017 Washington City Paper article, “The Battle of Fort Reno.”)
The history wasn’t entirely buried, and for at least the past few years, there’s been talk of stripping the segregationist president’s name from Wilson High. In December, Wilson High Principal Kimberly Martin discussed the issue with WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi.
On Tuesday, February 12th, the community is invited to a forum on changing the school’s name. It is beling held at Wilson High, from 7 to 9 p.m. See the details below and register here.
The D.C. History and Justice Collective and the Wilson High School Diversity Task Force invite Wilson students, teachers, staff, alumni and neighbors, and residents of all eight wards to join a forum and community conversation on President Woodrow Wilson’s segregationist legacy in Washington. Is it time to change the school’s name?
President Wilson brought Jim Crow practices to the federal government, firing and demoting black employees who had found a road to advancement in the federal civil service. His racist employment practices decimated the black middle class in Washington in the early 20th century and fired up the segregation in housing and education that has kept many in the black community separate and unequal to this day.
“‘The colored people of Washington have never recovered from the blow that struck them in the time of Woodrow Wilson,’ concluded a national report on segregation in Washington in 1948.” (Eric Yellin, Racism in the Nation’s Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson’s America).
Moderator Ray Suarez, prominent broadcast journalist and father of a Wilson High School graduate, will guide discussion between community members and the following experts:
Clarence Alston, Social Studies teacher, Woodrow Wilson High School Alcione Amos, Curator, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Michele Bollinger, D.C. History teacher, Woodrow Wilson High School John Milton Cooper, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, and member of the Woodrow Wilson High School class of 1957 James Fisher, descendant of the last residents of the African-American village on Broad Branch Road Neil Flanagan, architect and author of the City Paper 2017 story, “The Battle of Fort Reno” Eric Yellin, Professor of History and American Studies, University of Richmond, and author of Racism in the Nation’s Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson’s America.
The discussion will take place at Woodrow Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake Street, N.W. on Tuesday, February 12, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.