What's in a Name? A Discussion with Princeton University and Public School Students

Douglass Day Event

Feb 13 3:00 – 4:30 pm
What's in a Name? A Discussion with Princeton University and Public School Students

In June 2020, the Princeton University Board of Trustees voted to change the names of the University’s School of Public and International Affairs and of Wilson College. As President Christopher Eisgruber wrote at the time, “the trustees concluded that Woodrow Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms.”

Two months later, the Princeton Public School Board of Education voted to remove the name John Witherspoon from the town’s middle school; Witherspoon, a Princeton resident who signed the Declaration of Independence, was a slaveholder.

At this panel, students and teachers from Princeton Public Schools and Princeton University undergraduates will discuss their experiences advocating for these renamings. Why did these issues matter to them? What did they learn from being part of these important events? What can others gain from their experiences? As panelists reflect on these transformational moments in their communities, we will all have a chance to look back on a critical year for racial justice advocacy in Princeton and beyond.

This event is part of Douglass Day celebrations. Douglass Day is an annual event to celebrate Frederick Douglass’s chosen birthday of February 14. Each year, people all over the country gather (this year, virtually) to learn more about Black history through a transcribe-a-thon and other events. This year, attendees are invited to transcribe the papers of civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women. Terrell earned a master’s degree in education at Oberlin College in 1888, and spent part of her career as a teacher and school administrator. It is fitting, then, that the Princeton-area Douglass Day celebration should bring together teachers and students for a conversation about activism.

This program will take place on Zoom. Register on the Princeton Public Library website. If you have questions or concerns, please email kdorman@princetonlibrary.org.

This event is presented in partnership with Princeton Public Library and Princeton Public Schools.

Also join the national Douglass Day events on February 12 and 14!