"Princeton students right about Wilson"
Woodrow Wilson's record was deplorable on the "race question." He cut federal appointments of African-Americans; supported showings of the white-supremacist film "The Birth of a Nation," and stood by silently as segregation was formalized in the Post Office and many other federal departments.
He also declined to use any significant power of office to address lynching, segregation, disfranchisement and the vicious white-supremacist attacks on 26 African-American communities including Washington, D.C., Chicago and East St. Louis, III, that occurred during his administration.
Under Wilson, the United States not only implemented the Espionage Act, the Sedition Act and the Palmer Raids, it also occupied Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Nicaragua and intervened in Panama, Honduras and Mexico.
There were people like Hubert Harrison, the founder in 1917 of the first organization and newspaper of the militant "New Negro Movement," who understood that while lynching, segregation and disfranchisement marred this land, and while the United States attacked smaller countries, "Wilson's protestations of democracy were lying protestations, consciously and deliberately designed to deceive."
Harrison posed a direct challenge to Wilson, who had claimed the U.S. entered World War I in order to "make the world safe for democracy." Harrison's organization was founded to "stop lynching and disfranchisement in the land which we love and make the south 'safe for democracy.'"
As graduates of Princeton University, class of 1968, we are glad that today's students are raising some of these issues, opening the eyes of many and helping to point the way forward in the 21st century. Jeffrey B. Perry Westwood, Nov. 20 The writer is author of "Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918." The letter was also signed by Gene Bruskin of Silver Spring, Md.