There are 10 U.S. Army bases in our country that were named in commemoration of men who took up arms against America. These men, all Generals in the Confederate Army, rebelled against the United States, choosing to stand up for the perpetuation of slavery. Their collective actions resulted in the deaths of many thousands of soldiers fighting to preserve the Union. Yet, we continue to honor their memory to this very day, in spite of their disloyalty.
Forts Lee, Pickett, A.P. Hill, Bragg, Benning, Hood, Gordon, Rucker, Polk and Beauregard are scattered throughout the former Confederate states. They got their names early in the last century from local officials who wanted to keep the cause of white supremacy alive. At the same time the bases were being named, segregationists were also enacting Jim Crow laws to prevent African Americans from exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Civil War revisionists have spun the myth that the conflict was about economics and state’s rights. The fact is that the war was primarily about the right of white southerners to treat black people as if they were livestock. Economics did figure in because slave owners did not want to have to pay for the labor of their workers. And “state’s rights” were the rights to buy, to sell, to breed and to have total control over black slaves.
By allowing federal military installations and state-supported monuments to continue to carry the names of these defenders of slavery, the government lends dignity and implicit validation to their odious racial beliefs. It is a slap in the face to African American men and women in uniform who train and serve on those bases and elsewhere. It dishonors the 360,222 Union soldiers who died fighting the rebellion.
The Army and Congress appear willing to change the names of the 10 bases, but President Trump objects. He tweeted on June 10 that he would “not even consider” renaming the bases. He claimed the bases “have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” With names celebrating the defenders of slavery, it is not a heritage that should be protected by a government that claims to support the freedom, equality and dignity of every citizen, regardless of color.
It is unclear how “winning” and “victory” come into the picture for the 10 Confederate Generals, because they lost the Civil War. America decisively won that war. As far as “freedom” goes, the rebels were fighting for the freedom of southerners to own black people and treat or mistreat them as they wished, while the Union was fighting to free those oppressed people from slavery.
There are so many Americans whose names would be infinitely more appropriate to grace our military installations than those who fought against us. Why not rename those forts for people who have inspired us with their bravery or the great contributions they made to enhancing our national security–Medal of Honor recipients, victorious troop leaders, great strategists. We changed the name of Fort Arnold to Fort Clinton when Benedict Arnold betrayed his fledgling country, let’s name our forts for loyal citizens.