Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

LONG BEACH — A petition on Change.org is calling for the name of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach to be changed.

At a time when Confederate monuments are being taken down in the South and academic institutions named after racists are being renamed, the online petition was launched three weeks ago by someone identified only as Jacob B. As of July 16, more than 3,400 signatures have been collected toward the goal of 5,000. 

Woodrow Wilson

The petition, which is directed at the board of the Long Beach Unified School District and Principal Kim Holland, reads as follows.

“Woodrow Wilson High School, located in Long Beach, Calif., is named after Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States. He served as president from 1913 to 1921 and was a vehement RACIST and BIGOT who acted as a roadblock to racial and social progress in the United States. During his presidency, Wilson implemented federal policies that subjugated African Americans and excluded them from jobs, civil liberties, and prosperity. Here are some instances that demonstrate Wilson’s intolerance and corrupted views on civil rights.

“• Wilson fought for Jim Crow segregation in federal agencies and encouraged members of his cabinet to implement segregation in their departments.

“• Upon becoming president, Wilson fired 15 out of 17 black federal supervisors that had been appointed by his predecessor. This was the beginning of an aggressive campaign to eliminate black employees from the federal workforce in Washington, D.C.

“• Woodrow Wilson was an ally of the Ku Klux Klan. He allowed a special screening of the pro-Klan propaganda film “The Birth of a Nation” at the White House. This film was credited with reviving the Klan’s popularity and membership in the United States.

“• Wilson failed to intervene to stop the racial violence under his administration. Wilson stood by as lynchings and ethnic massacres took thousands of African American lives during his presidency … 

The reason we name streets, parks, schools, and libraries after public figures is to commemorate their contributions to society. A person who deserves to be memorialized in such a way should not be opposed to the essential civic foundations of freedom and equality …

“When students enter a school to learn, they should not have to look up at a name that stood for white supremacy at the highest levels of political power. I believe that an educational institution located in a diverse and inclusive city like Long Beach should not memorialize this man.

“There are many great Americans whose name could better represent the promise of a Long Beach education. While we may not all agree on a new name for this school, I think we can agree that it should not be named after Woodrow Wilson.

“Black Lives Matter – Rest in Peace George Floyd”

The petition included a link to a video about Wilson’s racism from the documentary series “American Experience: The Great War” and links to two articles: “Woodrow Wilson Was Extremely Racist — Even by the Standards of His Time” (vox.com) and “Five Surprising Facts About Woodrow Wilson and Racism” (csmonitor.com).

Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable president Earl Ofari Hutchinson and other area civil rights leaders have also issued a demand that Long Beach school officials make the change.

“They called Wilson a virulent racist who backed the Klan, backed exclusion of Japanese and Chinese from the U.S., screened the racist film ‘Birth of a Nation’ at the White House and booted Blacks out of federal government jobs,” Hutchinson said. “To have his name on a high school in Long Beach with a near-majority of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and students of color is a travesty and insult to a diverse city such as Long Beach.”

“In the matter of Chinese and Japanese coolie immigration I stand for the national policy of exclusion (or restricted immigration),” Wilson wrote in 1912. “The whole question is one of assimilation of diverse races. We cannot make a homogeneous population out of people who do not blend with the Caucasian race … Oriental coolieism will give us another race problem to solve, and surely we have had our lesson.”

In June, Princeton University said it will remove Wilson’s name from a building on its campus because of the former president’s racist beliefs and policies.

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  1. As a Graduate of the School/1981- it bothers me to a great deal that we were NOT informed of these things about the school that bears his Name. I was clueless of the fact that the painting of him in our school library was donated by the Daughters of the Confederacy. We recently took the name of Robert E Lee off of a school in Long Beach and I see no reason that we shouldn’t do the same here but in the spirit of fairness we could replace it with his wife’s name, Edith,who was a direct beneficiary of the 19th amendment