Woodrow Wilson is a mix bag to me, because he is the father of American liberal internationalism. This idea that America should always be strong and fight authoritarianism around the world ( even if we promote it at home ) and work with our allies around the world to defend liberal democracy and fight against authoritarianism. Whether its communism, or religious theocracy, monarchy, nationalism, whatever the authoritarian philosophy might be. Which has been the governing foreign policy inside the Democratic Party going all the way though the Barack Obama Administration. George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign might be the only exception to this. So on this score I give President Woodrow Wilson very high marks.
President Woodrow Wilson was also an economic Progressive. He believed in things like a public safety net things like Unemployment Insurance for people who are unemployed. That every America ( at least European-Americans ) should have an opportunity to succeed in America. He believed in a regulatory state not to run private industry, but to protect employees and consumers from predators in the economy. Perhaps not as progressive as Theodore Roosevelt ( but most American politicians weren’t back then ) but an economic Progressive. Even though he was very regressive when it came to race relations and promoted segregation and separating African-Americans from European-Americans.
But if you want to know why we had segregation and Jim Crow laws in the 1920s and going all the way up to the mid-1960s, look no further than President Woodrow Wilson and his administration of the 19 teens. Where President Wilson even segregated the races in the Federal Government. And not allowing African-Americans to get good Federal jobs simply because of their race. Which gave life to Dixiecrats and Dixiecrat governors in the South, as well as local government’s own there to pass their own segregation laws.
Southern predominately Anglo-Saxon European-Americans, knew they lost the Civil War and that slavery would no longer be tolerated. But there’s that old saying that the Confederates lost the Civil War but won the battles and the reconstruction. Jim Crow laws were Confederates chance at revenge. Acknowledging that slavery was history but that since Africans would no longer be slaves for anyone in America, that instead they would be treated like second-class citizens in America and in some cases not even be treated like American citizens at all. Be treated like criminals, terrorists, and even animals, by Southern racists. And Jim Crow laws and segregation, is obviously a huge part of the negative legacy of President Woodrow Wilson. Just like Watergate is a big part of President Richard Nixon’s negative legacy.