Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, took office in 1913, which is the same year that my historical novel THE BLUE HOUR takes place. He doesn’t figure at all in my book, but I may have to put him in a future one because…what a scoundrel.
All I remember about him from history classes was that he was instrumental in establishing the League of Nations, but Congress wouldn’t let the U.S. join. I got the sense from these classes that he was a decent president who helped save the world from German domination and also proposed some fairly progressive policies.
It wasn’t until watching the film Iron-Jawed Angels that I learned how he obstructed suffrage for women. He pretended to listen to the suffragists, but kept patronizing them, telling them it wasn’t the right time. It was never the right time for women to get the vote in his view.
I also learned as a film teacher that Wilson actually showed Birth of a Friggin’ Nation — a film which sanctioned and popularized the KKK — in the White House. As a true southerner, he must have approved of the film’s depiction of Black men as unruly savages, lusting after defenseless white women!
Now an opinion piece in the New York Times damns him further as a segregationist and white supremacist who ensured that the names of Confederate traitors sit atop many of our military installations. A lot of people already knew this, but many of us did not realize he was the man responsible for that travesty.
Truly, it matters not how progressive some of his policies were. Nothing has been more damaging to this country or its people than the continuation of slavery in the form of Jim Crow oppression, institutional racism, mass incarceration, and police brutalism. What a different country we’d have today if he’d been a champion for ALL Americans.