Even Judging Woodrow Wilson by the Standards of His Own Time, He Was Deplorably Racist

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History News Network (HNN)


The news that Princeton acquiesced to student demands that the university confront the racism of Woodrow Wilson set off a series of responses. Some protest that it is unfair to judge the 28th president by present day standards. These pundits, almost all white, proclaim that Wilson must be understood within the context of his own time. The inference of such an assertion is that in times of pervasive racism it is reasonable for a leader to perpetuate it. Setting aside the assumption that morals are relative rather than absolute, let’s examine Wilson’s actions within his times.