Monmouth University in New Jersey said it would remove Woodrow Wilson's name from its marquee building after administrators, professors and students said that the former president held abhorrent views on race and reinstituted segregation in the federal workforce.
The decision contrasted with a vote by Princeton University's trustees in 2016 to keep Wilson's name on campus buildings and programs, despite student protests that led to a review of his legacy.
Monmouth's trustees also voted in 2016 to keep Wilson's name on an elaborate 1929 mansion that is the campus' crown jewel. But in the four years since, "the context has changed," Monmouth President Patrick Leahy said Saturday. "Wilson was a controversial politician, and I think it has heightened awareness in 2020 about some of his racist policies," he said.
The decision was a sign of the many ways that U.S. institutions are being forced to confront their links to racism amid the worldwide protests that followed the killing of George Floyd last month. Across the country, corporations, universities and government buildings have removed or reconsidered names, icons and symbols of racial oppression.
In Camden, N.J., officials announced they planned to rename Woodrow Wilson High School. "Our students will walk into a new building not tied to a building with a racist legacy," Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs said.
Wilson served as president of Princeton and as governor of New Jersey before he was elected president of the United States in 1912. While he is perhaps best known as the architect of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, and is considered by some to be a founder of modern liberalism, his legacy has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years.
Historians, including some at Monmouth, have said that Wilson believed in white supremacy and advanced policies to support his racist worldview. A Democrat, he appointed a Cabinet that was heavy on Southern racists, including William McAdoo as treasury secretary and Albert Burleson as postmaster general, both of whom quickly pushed to segregate their departments, demoting and firing many black people.
"He was behind his own times on race, and many scholars have concluded that," said Hettie Williams, an assistant professor of African-American history at Monmouth, who was on a panel that recommended changing the building's name.
Trustees gave Woodrow Wilson Hall a new name: the Great Hall at Shadow Lawn.
The building, Leahy noted, had only a tenuous connection to Wilson. It was built in 1929, five years after Wilson's death and two years after another mansion on the same site burned down. That mansion had been lent to Wilson during his 1916 re-election campaign and had been used as a presidential summer home.
In North Carolina, spectators in the state capital, Raleigh, cheered Sunday morning as work crews finished the job started by protesters Friday night and removed a Confederate statue from the top of a 75-foot monument.
Gov. Roy Cooper removed the statue Sunday morning and began taking down the obelisk on which it stood. Sunday's work follows the removal of two other Confederate statues on the State Capitol grounds in Raleigh on Saturday.
Cooper ordered the statues removed after protesters toppled two other Confederate statues Friday night, stringing one up by the neck and hanging it from a light pole.
"Monuments to white supremacy don't belong in places of allegiance, and it's past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way," Cooper said.
In California, protesters over the weekend targeted statues and busts of former President Ulysses Grant, who commanded the Union Army that defeated the Confederacy; Francis Scott Key, who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner"; and Spanish missionary Junipero Serra, who is credited with bringing Roman Catholicism to the western United States. Grant and Key were both slave owners at points in their lives.
And in New York, the bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt, on horseback and flanked by an American Indian and an African, which has presided over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York since 1940, is coming down.
For many, the "Equestrian" statue had come to symbolize a painful legacy of colonial expansion and racial discrimination.