Progressivism’s Bigoted Past (and Present)

Progressivism embraced racism early in its history, a line of thought that continues to this day, only with different targets of scorn. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, two of the early advocates of progressivism in America, often manifested racial and/or ethnic prejudice. Although he believed in Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, TR generally soft-peddled his views about blacks. But, he frequently mouthed shibboleths about Jews. His antipathy toward hyphenated Americans who were not from the British Isles or northern Europe was also well known. As president, Wilson exhibited his Southern heritage by a series of acts, from screening D. W. Griffith’s racist movie, Birth of a Nation, in the White House to resegregating domestic and military bureaucracies. Wilson may have been the most virulent white racist to occupy the White House since slavery ended.

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