Service academies are some of the first stops for the Defense Department’s renaming commission for bases, ships and more that honor the Confederacy, and according to research by the Southern Poverty Law Center, those campuses are home to eight symbols that should be considered.
They include a portrait of alumnus Gen. Robert E. Lee ― along with Lee Barracks, Lee Gate, Lee Road and the Robert E. Lee Memorial Award ― and Beauregard Place at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Buchanan House, Buchanan Road and Maury Hall are locations connected to the Confederacy at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Symbols of white supremacy should never have been associated with the military because they glorify a system of racial oppression and exclusion,” Lecia Brooks, SPLC’s chief of staff, said in a Wednesday release. “As I testified during a Congressional hearing earlier this year, there is no reason to wait three years to rename the Army’s 10 bases, nor the military’s numerous ships, roads, buildings, and memorials named after Confederate leaders. The time to act is now.”
Brooks went on to call the displays “dehumanizing and oppressive,” suggesting that they are “directly linked to white supremacist activity in the military.”
The renaming commission, stood up this year as required by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, has until the fall of 2023 to complete renaming projects. The first step is to compile the list.
Visiting West Point is part of that plan, though the military departments will be responsible for submitting their official lists to the commission.
The memorials at West Point and the Naval Academy are not necessarily under consideration, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told Military Times on Wednesday.
Though the commission is looking beyond base and ship names, as there is no official list compiled yet, she could not say whether Lee’s portrait, for instance, might be removed from West Point.
Concurrently, SPLC has started its own project, compiling places and things named for the Confederacy.
There are 84 on the list so far, though they include items at The Citadel and the Virginia Military Institute, which are not DoD-affiliated, as well as public memorials in New York City and New Orleans.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.