Photo: Clayton Henkel
Editor’s note: This Friday, June 2, 2023, will mark the dawn of an important new era for the largest military base in the world — North Carolina’s Fort Bragg. As part of the U.S. Military’s long overdue initiative to remove the names of Confederates who fought against the United States during the Civil War and replace them with names that honor individuals and ideas truly representative of the best of America, Fort Bragg will become Fort Liberty.
The following is from the base’s website:
MARCH TO LIBERTY!
The name Liberty honors the heroism, sacrifices, and values of the Soldiers, Service Members, Civilians, and Families who live and serve with this installation. We view this as the next chapter in our history and look forward to honoring the stories of our military heroes from every generation and walk of life.
- Fort Liberty represents all who serve and has special significance to the installation’s units and community.
- The name Fort Liberty unites all of what the community stands for through a common connection. Fort Liberty was not chosen at random. The word conveys the aspiration of all who serve and has special significance to our units and the community.
- The installation is the same power projection platform supporting the warfighter. The fort’s fidelity to its mission has not wavered. With every action taken throughout each day and throughout the world, the base’s Servicemembers and surrounding communities support exceptional fighting units with long, proud, and prominent histories of service.
- It’s the people who make our post what it is– as we change to Fort Liberty, our rich history and heritage will remain and our contribution to our nation’s history continues.
And the following recent article from the national website, The Conversation, provides a handy summary of the progress that’s been made on this important issue:
Symbols of the Confederacy are slowly coming down from US military bases: 3 essential reads
Without much fanfare, a federal panel is removing the names of Confederate generals from U.S. military bases and replacing them with names that exemplify modern-day values and patriotism.
Most recently, on May 11, 2023, the U.S. Army base in Georgia originally named after Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry Benning was renamed Fort Moore after both Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore, who served in Vietnam, and his wife, Julia Moore, who had been an advocate for military families and reformed the military’s death notice procedures.
In stark contrast to the Moores, Benning was a leader in the South’s secession movement and strongly defended slavery.
Over the years, The Conversation US has published numerous stories exploring the legacy of Confederate nostalgia, everything from national monuments to U.S. military bases. Here are selections from those articles.
1. Reconsidering Confederate iconography
For decades, nine U.S. Army bases have carried the names of men who fought against the United States and its Union army – in a war waged to defend and perpetuate the slavery of people of African descent.
These military installations, all in Southern states, were named to honor such figures as Gen. Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate Army, and John Bell Hood, an associate of Lee’s known for being both brave and impetuous.
Until recently, the military installations honoring Confederate leaders received little scrutiny from the media. As a newspaper reporter four decades ago, Jeff South gave the names a free pass. In 1981, South wrote, he covered the Boy Scouts Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia without mentioning that the base was named for a man who had turned against the United States and fought to defend slavery.
“In recent years, more Americans, including those living in the South, have reconsidered the use of Confederate iconography,” South wrote.
2. Memorializing modern-day values
As a professor of pop culture history who studies Black statues within mainstream society, Frederick Gooding Jr. wrote about America’s reckoning with its oppressive past.
“The nation (faces) the question of not just which statues and other images should be taken down,” Gooding explained, “but what else – if anything – should be put up in their place.”
Gooding pointed out that the lack of Black statues, for example, is an overlooked barometer of racial progress and “sends a clear message of exclusion.”
3. Memorials have expiration dates too?
“Historical monuments are intended to be timeless, but almost all have an expiration date,” they wrote. “As society’s values shift, the legitimacy of monuments can and often does erode.”
This is because monuments, including the names of U.S. military bases, reveal the values of the time in which they were created and advance the agendas of their creators.
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