DC Council proposes ‘Jackson Reed’ as new name for Woodrow Wilson High School

The largest public high school in the District, Woodrow Wilson High School, will have a different name in the near future, but it likely won’t be the name that was proposed by the D.C. Public Schools chancellor.

According to the school’s newspaper “The Wilson Beacon,” the D.C. Council is now considering the name Jackson Reed High School.

That would effectively overrule the proposal from the school system’s chancellor, Lewis Ferebee, who said earlier this year that the name should be August Wilson High School, after the iconic playwright.

The Pittsburgh native chronicled the African American experience in the 20th Century in works like “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

During a recent public hearing, council member Kenyan McDuffie said would prefer to go with something else.

“Frankly, changing Woodrow Wilson High School to August Wilson High School seems like the easy choice, rather than the most thoughtful choice,” McDuffie said.

The name “Jackson Reed” would honor Edna Jackson, the school’s first Black teacher, and Vincent Reed, the school’s first Black principal.

People who want the name changed point to segregationist policies supported by Woodrow Wilson. the nation’s 28th president.

Historians say when Wilson, a two-term Democratic president, entered the White House in 1913 and segregated the civil service, some African Americans who worked for the federal government, including supervisors, were demoted.

“Woodrow Wilson, for whatever else he did on the national stage as president, he was a segregationist in D.C. and used his office as president to segregate the civil service here,” said Ruth Wattenberg, president of the D.C. State Board of Education. “People in D.C. have been wanting to change the name of Woodrow Wilson High School for a while and in my judgment, it’s a very clear case.”

The name change is subject to D.C. Council approval.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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