N.J. district to rename Woodrow Wilson school, citing former president’s ‘racist values’

NJ reports school officials in Camden announced a plan this week to rename 90-year-old Woodrow Wilson High School.

The decision came after a concerted grassroots effort, including a Change.org petition a year ago, to drive support for the measure.

“I will be leading the charge with a committee made up of community, alumni, students and administrators as we explore a new name for Woodrow Wilson High School,” Camden Superintendent of Schools Katrina McCombs said Tuesday during a virtual school advisory board meeting. “This is a process that must be done in a collaborative manner. We thank the many community members…who raised the concern about the school being named after an individual who expressed and demonstrated racist values.”

Wilson, a Democrat, was president of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Prior to being elected president he was the governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. He was born and raised in Virginia.

Wilson, the first southerner to be elected president since 1848, has been both praised and vilified for his administration. He racially re-segregated parts of the U.S. government.

Wilson also made sweeping changes in America, including launching the Federal Reserve Bank system and helping the Allied powers win World War I.

McCombs said the district, which was taken over by the state in 2012, has reviewed other school building names and determined Wilson high school is the only building it is considering renaming. The name change was first reported by TAP Into Camden.

“I know this is a very sensitive and delicate issue,” McCombs said. “The Black Lives Matter movement has caused us to all think and be aware. But in addition to thinking, reflecting and becoming aware, it is also important we teaching the next generation, and the current one, how to take action now.”

The Camden city public school district has 12,000 students, five charter school operators and three renaissance school operators. Approximately 7,500 students attend district schools. Eleven of the district’s 19 schools were built before 1985, and half of those before 1948.

Woodrow Wilson High School, located in East Camden, was built in 1930 as a junior high school and converted into a high school in 1933. Some of its prominent graduates include football player Mike Rozier who won the Heisman Trophy in 1983 and Camden’s current Mayor Francisco “Frank” Moran.