BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Beckley community members are demanding the removal of former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from a local high school due to the racist ideas he supported. President Woodrow Wilson was in office from 1913-1921 and vigorously enforced segregation policies.
“The history of Woodrow Wilson… you see that he became president after rules were passed, bills were passed from segregation to integration… and when he became president, he canceled it, and segregation was back in,” said former Stratton High School student Nelson Staples III.
This is not the first time in history Beckley community members have fought to have the name changed. During the 1950s, there were still no integrated schools in West Virginia. In 1953, two segregated Beckley high schools, Stratton and Woodrow Wilson, were set to undergo consolidation. This would include combining the student body, establishing a new name and mascot as well as highlighting both academic and athletic achievements as one. Still, Stratton High, an all-black school, was never acknowledged.
“All of the trophies that we had accumulated over the years… we had been a productive, athletic school. Our stuff went to the landfill,” said Staples.
Students from former Stratton High involved in the transition claim that they were promised over 55 years ago to take part in the re-branding of what still is Woodrow Wilson High School.
“When we found out that it was going to be renamed Woodrow, we tried to fight the fact that it wasn’t a common name, but we were told that the bond had already been passed in the name of Woodrow Wilson High School. There was nothing that we could do,” said former Stratton High School student Deloris Kidd.
This renewed call to action not only seeks to address the dismissal of former Stratton student’s accomplishments but also brings to light the pro-segregation that President Wilson believed in.