• History of Ella J. Baker Montessori School

    Ella Baker | Biography & Facts | Britannica


    From opening its doors in 1925 until April 8, 2021, our school was known as Woodrow Wilson School and later Woodrow Wilson Montessori School, named after the 28th president of the United States from 1913 to 1921. The community felt that sharing a name with Woodrow Wilson did not represent the values of the school for many of the following reasons:

    • Woodrow Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time.
    • Woodrow Wilson segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice.
      • Upon taking office, Wilson himself fired 15 out of 17 African American supervisors in the federal service and replaced them with Whites.
      • Those African Americans that he did not fire due to the nature of their work had cages built around them to separate them from their White companions.
    • Woodrow Wilson allowed Jim Crow laws to be put into place in Washington, D.C.
      • Screened-off workspaces, separate lunchrooms, and separate bathrooms were re-introduced once Wilson was president; separating African Americans from others.
    • As the 13th president of Princeton, Woodrow Wilson discouraged African American applicants from applying to Princeton.
    • In reevaluating Wilson’s legacy, it’s important to understand not only his leadership through a World War, or his business and labor reforms. It’s also important to know that, on the home front, he perpetuated violence and inequality for African Americans. 


    We are a school that believes in peace education and social justice. During the 2020-2021 school year, school leadership along with community members began the process for a possible school name change. An overview of that work can be found HERE


    The name selected by the re-naming committee and submitted to the board of education for approval was Ella Josephine Baker. The name change was approved at the April 8, 2021 school board meeting with a unamious vote.


    Ella Josephine Baker (December 13, 1903 – December 13, 1986) was an African-American civil rights and human rights activist. She was a largely behind-the-scenes organizer whose career spanned more than five decades. In New York City and the South, she worked alongside some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including W. E. B. Du BoisThurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr. 


    “You didn't see me on television, you didn't see news stories about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is strong people don't need strong leaders.”-Ella J. Baker


    The committee felt that this was a good choice because:

    • With this new name, we show our community that you do not always have to be in the spotlight to make a difference. 
    • As a Montessori school with a peace education curriculum, Baker’s legacy would prove that if we join together, we can make change happen. 
    • As Montessorians and students preparing for a global society, we see a problem and we solve it, without the expectation of praise or acknowledgement.


    The name change process has allowed our school community to begin a conversation about history as well as discuss what we value not to mention our hopes and dreams for our students. A name change is not intended to erase history, but a name change does represent the promise of a new day for our students.