Fargo Human Relations Commission supports removing 'ugly racist' name from high school
FARGO — The Fargo Human Relations Commission threw their weight behind changing the name of Woodrow Wilson High School after Jim Shaw, a Forum columnist, spoke on behalf of making the change Thursday, July 16.
“Today, I am here to talk about Woodrow Wilson, the ugly racist,” Shaw said. “Wilson used his power to take racism, hatred and white supremacy to another level. When it comes to African Americans, Wilson’s policies took away their rights, their dignity and often, their lives.”
The plea to change the name of Fargo's alternative high school came after Princeton University removed Wilson's name from its school of public policy and a residential college last month, saying he was an “inappropriate namesake."
Shaw said Wilson segregated federal offices and fired or demoted black employees and replaced them with white workers. He also changed job application processes to require that all applicants submit a photo ID.
“I daresay that 99% of the people in this community didn’t know of Wilson’s despicable racist actions. Now that we know, I don’t know how Fargo can keep the name,” Shaw said. “It’s tantamount to endorsing his horrific records and actions.”
The Human Relations Commission agreed, and unanimously passed a resolution in support of changing the name of Woodrow Wilson High School. The school is located in the Agassiz building at 1305 9th Ave. S.
Ritchell Aboah, a leader of the activist group OneFargo, thanked Shaw for his words.
“There’s a lot of talk about a name change, what could that do for us? Or a statue removal, what can that do for us? It reminds us of so many tortures that we have faced in our generation," Aboah said. "For someone who is white to stand up and call out all these facts … is something incredible, for me being a black woman sitting here and listening to you. Thank you for that, and I applaud you."
Black Lives Matter organizer Faith Dixon said her group planned to raise the same issue with the city of Fargo. “I applaud you because you took my speech out of my mouth,” Dixon said.
Commission member Cody Severson said he would like to see all area schools that are named after oppressive figures renamed.
The newly elected president of the Fargo School Board, Rebecca Knutson, said the potential name change will be discussed at the board's governance meeting at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, July 23. Knutson said the district plans to stream the meeting live on the internet, with more details to be announced later.
“One of the purposes of that group is to help decide items for the regular board meetings … and we are going to be discussing our policy regarding school naming,” Knutson said.