Fort Bragg becoming latest base to get name change because name honored Confederate figure

Raleigh, NC – Fort Bragg will shed its Confederate namesake and convert to Fort Liberty. It will do so in a ceremony Friday, which some veterans see as a small but important step in making the U.S. Army more welcoming to current and future Black service members.

The change is part of a broader Department of Defense initiative, motivated by the 2020 George Floyd proteststo rename military installations that bear the names of Confederate soldiers.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted nationwide afterwards Floyd’s killing by a white police officer, coupled with ongoing efforts to remove Confederate monuments, brought the spotlight to Army installations. A naming commission established by Congress visited the bases and met with Members of the surrounding communities for suggestions.

While other bases are named after black soldiers, US presidents, and pioneering women, North Carolina’s military facility is the only one not named after a person. Retired US Army Brigadier General. General Ty Seidule told a commission meeting last year that Fort Liberty was chosen as the new name because “liberty remains the greatest American value.”

The cost of renaming Fort Bragg — one of the world’s most populous military installations — is about $6.37 million, according to a commission report.

The North Carolina base was originally named in 1918 for General Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general from Warrenton, North Carolina known for owning slaves and losing key Civil War battles that contributed to the Confederacy’s downfall.

Several military bases have been named after Confederate soldiers in World Wars I and II as part of a “demonstration of reconciliation” with white Southerners and a broader effort to unite the nation in common struggle, said Nina Silber, a historian at Boston University.

“It was kind of a gesture of ‘yes, we recognize your patriotism,’ which is kind of absurd to recognize the patriotism of people who have rebelled against a country,” she said.

The original naming involved members of local communities, but black residents were excluded from the talks. Bases were named after soldiers who were born or raised nearby, regardless of how effectively they performed their duties. Bragg is widely viewed by historians as a bad leader who didn’t command the respect of his troops, Silber said.

For Isiah James, senior policy officer at the Black Veterans Project, the base renaming is a “long overdue” change that he hopes will result in more substantial improvements for black military personnel.

“America should have no traces of slavery and secessionism and should celebrate them,” he said. “We shouldn’t praise them and hold them up and worship them because every time a black soldier enters the base, they get the message that this Bragg base is named after someone who wanted to keep them as human property.”

The Secretary of Defense has a legal obligation to implement the changes proposed by the Naming Commission by January 1, 2024.

James, a former US Army infantry squad leader who served at Fort Cavazos near Killeen, Texas, previously named Fort Hood after Confederate General John Bell Hood, described an allowable climate of racism that he experienced during his deeply touched by military service.

He recalled feeling like a “circus geek” when his platoon leader had him photographed on patrol with people who “had never seen a big black man before.”

When he first joined the Army, James said his drill sergeant made him get on his knees to talk to him because he didn’t want a black man standing over him.

James said he didn’t realize his base was named after a Confederate general until after his military service, and believes many soldiers at Fort Bragg didn’t know either.

“I don’t think it will have a big impact on young soldiers,” he said of the name change. “But I think it has a collective effect on society. America gets a lot of things wrong, but sometimes we get it right, and this is one of them.”


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