Confederate memorials persist at Southern military bases, SPLC says

Dozens of symbols celebrating the Confederacy remain at U.S military installations throughout the South, according to a report released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The report noted that an additional 64 memorials had been added to the SPLC’s military section of its Confederate symbol database, adding to the 14 already listed. Other databases held by the Montgomery-based civil rights organization contain the location of thousands of other Confederate namesakes, including schools, monuments, scholarships and roads, among others.   

Of the 78 contained in the military database, 72 are located in the South. That includes around 50 split between two senior military colleges in Virginia and South Carolina.

The report comes a year after the murder of George Floyd, which sparked protests around the world and generated conversation about the many racist symbols remaining in public view. Over that time, monuments in cities and towns throughout the country have either been pulled down by the public or removed by officials.

Lecia Brooks, the SPLC’s chief of staff, said in a statement that the military symbols were problmeatic and continued to promote racial segregation and injustice.

“Symbols of white supremacy should never have been associated with the military because they glorify a system of racial oppression and exclusion,” said Brooks. “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.”

The database notes that 20 Confederate memorials are located at The Citadel, one of six senior military colleges throughout the country. Among the memorials at the Charleston, S.C.,-based school are a confederate naval flag that hangs in a chapel. The school’s board voted to remove the flag in 2015, but the state attorney general said the flag was protected by South Carolina’s Heritage Act and can only be removed if the legislature agrees.  

Other memorials at the 179-year-old school are spread among buildings, monuments and roads.

The Lexington-based Virginia Military Institute, the oldest public senior military college in the country, has 28 memorials in total, according to the SPLC database. Another 11 are also based at separate military installations in the state.

Other memorials located in the South are Alabama’s Fort Rucker, named after Edmund Rucker, a colonel in the Confederate Army. Georgia and Louisiana both have four Confederate memorials based at military installations, while Texas has two. North Carolina and Mississippi have one each.

Only five Confederate memorials associated with the military have been removed or renamed since 2018, noted the report.

The SPLC’s findings come nearly a year after Reckon examined Confederate memorials located at Southern university campuses and campus-led efforts to remove them. Despite nearly a year of protest and vows from some administrators to remove them, many were still present as of April 2021.   

Brooks said that some progress had been made to erase the racist names still present at military bases throughout the country, but more had to be done to bring racial equality to the U.S. military.

“We’ve seen encouraging progress made, such as the National Defense Authorization Act’s mandate to remove Confederate names from Department-owned property within three years and the Marine Corps’ decision to remove any and all symbols of the Confederacy from their public and work spaces. But until a more inclusive military is established, this country cannot honestly work towards a more equitable American landscape.”

The Reckon Report.
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