Part 3d: Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Most people ‘remember’ US President Woodrow Wilson as a great liberal, because his apologists have represented him this way. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica, custodian of mainstream opinion, writes that Wilson is “remembered for… his ethical idealism.”[41] And Wilson’s main biographer, Arthur S. Link, states in an article that Wilson supposedly was not a racist, which he says right after telling us that Joseph Wilson, the father, was “an ardent defender of slavery”– so much so that he had allied with the Southern Confederacy that fought to preserve slavery even though he was not from there. The son, however, according to Link, had pro black ideas far in advance of the average racist in the US Southern aristocracy in which he grew up.[41a]

And yet Woodrow’s racist policies aren’t exactly a secret. “As president of Princeton, he had turned away black applicants, regarding their desire for education to be ‘unwarranted.’”[42] When he became Governor of New Jersey in 1910, Woodrow Wilson became one of the most radical leaders of the eugenics movement, with great political consequences. Later Link would admit frankly to an Afro-American journal that his protagonist was indeed a racist.[43]

As Governor of New Jersey, Wilson pioneered one of the first eugenics state laws that Charles Davenport was calling for in his book. They were draconian. “Chapter 190 of its statutory code created a special three-man ‘Board of Examiners of Feebleminded, Epileptics, and Other Defectives.’”[44] The category “Other Defectives” was deliberately an open one because this gave him the greatest repressive latitude. The man who drafted the New Jersey eugenics law for Wilson was Dr. Katzen-Ellenbogen, who would later become a notorious killer doctor in Adolf Hitler’s Buchenwald concentration camp.[45]

In Woodrow Wilson’s eugenic New Jersey,

“The administrative hearing was held within the institution itself [orphanages, state asylums, etc.], not in a courtroom under a judge’s gavel. Moreover, the court-designated counsel for the patient was given only five days before the sterilization decision was sealed. Thus the process would be swift, certainly beyond the grasp of the confused children dwelling within state shelters.”[46]

There is no question that the eugenicists were hypocrites. As a boy Wilson didn’t manage to learn how to read until age 11, which, in his own New Jersey system would have declared him ‘feebleminded.’ But Wilson didn’t rush to be interned in one of his state institutions.[47]

Once inaugurated as US president in 1913, Wilson made a “push to institutionalize [the system] of [racial] segregation within the federal civil service.” Soon the toilets, cafeterias, and work areas of the various government departments had been segregated. Many black federal officers were fired, and the Washington police and fire departments ceased hiring blacks. (The man in charge of segregating for Wilson the restrooms in the buildings of the Departments of State, War, and the Navy was his protégé, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Undersecretary of the Navy.)[48] “[Woodrow Wilson] embraced the poisonous message of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation,” which celebrated the Ku Klux Klan, a violent and racist anti-black organization. “The movie was based primarily on The Clansman, a novel written by Thomas Dixon in 1905. Not only was Dixon a personal friend of Wilson’s, he had been pushing for a Wilson presidency for years, and Wilson regarded himself as being in Dixon’s debt. Wilson discharged that debt by helping Dixon and Griffith publicizetheir movie.”[48a]

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