Although some rankings feature categories like “pursued equal justice for all,” significant acts of racism don’t seem to hurt many previous presidents. Woodrow Wilson is a good example of this. He tends to be ranked toward the top (11th in the recent survey), and in many ways, Wilson was an important architect of the modern presidency. But he also re-segregated the executive branch and screened the violently racist film The Birth of a Nation at the White House.
Similarly, Franklin Roosevelt receives high marks across the political spectrum despite his decision to place Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II. And slave ownership doesn’t seem to get any consideration: Two of the consistent “greats,” Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, owned human beings.
While the Founding Fathers seem to get a pass here, the policies of recent presidents are receiving more attention with regards to race.