Army Base Names Are Changing. But to What?

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tags: military history, Confederacy, public history

Braxton Bragg was an ill-tempered, largely failed Confederate general from a slave-owning family whose history has been omitted from the training curriculum for troops on the installation that bears his name. But many service members and residents of the adjacent town have learned all about him in recent months.

Still, ambivalence about renaming Fort Bragg, the largest base in the nation, runs deep.

“In a sense, changing the name will be a loss,” said Sonji Clyburn, a veteran of Fort Bragg who lives here in Fayetteville, where at least two streets and several businesses are named after the base, and everyone knows someone who was “back at Bragg.” But, she added, “I do understand people’s perspectives on this.”

Last year, Congress ordered that 10 Army posts be stripped of their Confederate names, a central piece of a larger American movement to dismantle Confederate symbols in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

President Donald J. Trump vetoed the bipartisan legislation that contained the provision directing the military to change the base names. He singled out Fort Bragg in his objections during one interview, calling the base “a big deal.” His veto was easily overridden in his final days in office.

A commission appointed by Congress to oversee the renaming has asked communities surrounding the bases to play a role in picking the new names. The public may also suggest names on a website, which has so far logged 27,000 recommendations. “I will say some of those suggestions on the website are quite intense,” said Michelle Howard, a retired naval admiral who is now the chairwoman of the commission, said this week. “There are some folks who are distinctly opposed and the verbiage they use is quite deliberate.”

The commission, which has until 2022 to make its final recommendations, briefed lawmakers this week on its preliminary findings.

For some communities, the bases are an economic boon. Fort Bragg, which is home to the storied 82nd Airborne Division and the Special Forces, is also central to the identity of a region in the shadows of the research triangle to the north.

“A lot of people have spent a pivotal time in their lives here,” said Kathy Jensen, the mayor pro tem of Fayetteville, a city with 208,501 residents that sits next to the base.

Read entire article at New York Times

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