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Virginia Postrel

Progressive and Racist. Woodrow Wilson Wasn't Alone.

In the early 20th century, the reformers' definition of the common good was infused with scientific racism.


Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Until recently, Princeton University’s devotion to Woodrow Wilson was so pervasive and worshipful that visitors to campus might easily have mistaken the modernist parthenon housing the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs for a literal temple.

If nothing else, the black students demanding that my alma mater strip the segregationist president’s name from its public-policy school and Wilson College residential complex have accomplished one amazing thing. They’ve forced Princeton to acknowledge that its 13th president, and the nation’s 28th, was not the most nearly perfect human ever to inhabit New Jersey.