WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - For the last several years, there have been calls to change the name of the District’s Woodrow Wilson High School. Now, DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie — a graduate of Wilson — says it time to change the name.
Proponents of the name change say President Woodrow Wilson was a well-known segregationist whose policies hurt the black communities in the Northwest Washington neighborhood once known as “Reno City.”
The area, located just north of Tenleytown’s Fort Reno Park, “became a magnet for freed blacks and enslaved people seeking safe haven during the Civil War,” according to the Tenleytown Historical Society of Washington. By the late 1920s, the city and federal government made plans that eventually displaced the majority of the black residents in the area.
FOX 5 talked to McDuffie about the potential name change Wednesday. He said the following:
“Well, President Wilson…. created an environment outside of the federal government where it was tougher for black people in the District of Columbia… when you fast forward to today, with a city that is looking at issues around racial equity, social justice and economic inclusion, I think it is a very appropriate time to think about the name of the school and whether that is the best person to have one of our top high schools named after.”
“I'm happy to have that conversation with my colleagues and I know a number of them are already aware that there was a ‘Reno City’ that existed on land adjacent to where Wilson stands today and there was a whole community of black people that were displaced by the federal government — eminent domain was exercised to take their properties and we should be thinking about ways to honor their history and their legacy and not honor Woodrow Wilson".
Meanwhile, a historian FOX 5 talked to took an opposing view.
They pointed out that Wilson is credited with creating the Federal Reserve, the League of Nations and signing a law that established the eight-hour workday.
“The good outweighs the bad with Wilson,” the historian said. “The name Woodrow Wilson — both the man and the school — is synonymous with academic excellence.”