NJ schools dropping names of Woodrow Wilson, Cowboys and Indians
A number of schools are in the process of dropping the name of President Woodrow Wilson, a former governor of New Jersey, from its buildings as well as changing team names and mascots that are considered culturally or racially insensitive or offensive.
Monmouth University's Board of Trustees voted Friday to change the name of Wilson Hall to the Great Hall at Shadow Lawn.
Camden schools Superintendent Katrina McCombs said she will be "leading the charge" to change the name of Woodrow Wilson High School.
The Black Parents Association of New Jersey on Tuesday called on New Brunswick public schools to immediately remove the name of Wilson from one of the schools because of his "abhorrent views on race and segregation in the federal workforce."
The views of the 34th governor of New Jersey and 26th president of the United States — who re-segregated federal offices and had a White House screening of a film portraying the Ku Klux Klan as heroes — have been highlighted by critics in recent years. The criticism was renewed in recent weeks amid national demonstrations against racism and police misconduct.
Team names considered racially offensive have also come under renewed attack.
The Pascack Valley Regional High School District Board of Education voted Monday to change the names of their two high school teams, the Pascack Hill Cowboys and Pascack Valley Indians.
According to coverage of the meeting by the Pascack Hills Trailblazer student newspaper, the board heard two hours of comments mostly in support of the change.
Board member Kenneth Ralph said the names were chosen to create the perception of a rivalry between the schools but said they now should act to unify the district.
"The Pascack Valley Regional High School District stands against racism, fostering an environment where no one is persecuted or marginalized," the district said in a written statement. "Our intent is to educate our district community on the mutual contributions of all races, genders, religions, and cultures accepting, respecting, and learning from one another."
Students, staff and residents will come up with new names and mascots in line with the district's goals of equality and inclusivity.
Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali wrote on his Facebook page that he was disappointed in the decision to change the Cowboy name citing an anticipated six-figure cost of rebranding at a time when school funding is tight.
"It’s a fact that native Americans were settled in this area, and our town especially is being studied by academic scholars, making headlines and proving that Indian heritage is deeply rooted in this region," Ghassali wrote.
An online petition was launched to maintain the names but did not offer a reason to keep the name.
Howell High School in the Freehold Regional School District is getting rid of its cartoonish Confederate soldier but keeping the Rebel team name. The district will put several mascot designs up for a vote.
The College of New Jersey President Kathryn A. Foster said research into the school's William Green Plantation, a historic structure near the school's running track, confirmed the family owned slaves on the property. Foster said the school would partner with Princeton University for a symposium on slavery in the North and offer a course in spring 2021 but did not offer any other action that might be taken.
An online petition "demands" that the school demolish the plantation building and rename the Green Lane athletic fields.
The William Green Plantation Committee said their discovery about the Green family and slavery presents a chance to educate about slavery if the house is restored.
“We see several opportunities: to tell the story of enslaved people in Ewing; to connect that story to the larger history of slavery in New Jersey; to engage the community with the history of this region; and eventually to turn this space into some kind of center for the study of African Americans and social justice,” the committee said in an email sent to the TCNJ community.
“Our project is founded on the hope that this house can become a chance to honor people who were enslaved not just at this property but throughout New Jersey. We aim to contribute to nationwide efforts to expose how academic institutions benefited from slavery. We want students and researchers working in such a space to be inspired and driven by understanding the history of those before them at the house.”
The school in 2017 changed the name of its admissions office from Loser Hall to Trenton Hall after after student research discovered that Loser, a former Trenton schools superintendent, supported a segregated school system. The Loser family donated $1 million to TCNJ to help construct the building in the late 1980s, donated an additional $5 million to the school in 2006 and helped create the TCNJ Foundation.
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