Southern Poverty Law Center Adds 64 Military-Connected Places to List of Confederate Memorials

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Buchanan House, home to the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Buchanan House, home to the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, is among the list of places identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as honoring Confederates. It is named for Franklin Buchanan, the school's first superintendent, who resigned to fight for the Confederacy. (U.S. Naval Academy/Flickr)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has added 64 locations -- roads, memorials, buildings and monuments -- to its list of U.S. military-affiliated places honoring those who served with the Confederacy.

The nonprofit organization, which specializes in litigation and issues, added the locations to a list it began in 2015 as a response to the killing of nine Black congregants at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Of the new locations, three are at the U.S. Naval Academy and five are at the U.S. Military Academy, while 48 are at Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel -- state schools that offer Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarships and whose students fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

Many of the names or memorials were dedicated between 1906 and 1964, which the organization says corroborates "evidence that these memorials went up as part of an organized propaganda campaign in response to Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement."

"Symbols of white supremacy should never have been associated with the military because they glorify a system of racial oppression and exclusion," SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks said in a release Wednesday. "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."

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The list of Confederate figures honored in the memorial contains several familiar names -- Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury, who is considered the father of modern oceanography and maritime weather forecasting, and left the U.S. Navy to serve with the Confederate States of America.

Some on the list are more obscure, however. Among them: a memorial for Jackson's horse, Little Sorrell and a cannon made at the Tredegar Iron Works in Lexington, Virginia. The list also includes the Star of the West Monument at The Citadel, which honors students who fired on a steamship carrying supplies to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in 1861, but also contains the names of the school's recipients of the "Star of the West Medal," awarded annually to the "best drilled" student.

The Virginia Military Institute's own "crest" is listed, likely referring to the school's coat of arms, which includes a black canton with broken gold chevron that commemorates cadet participation in the charge at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864.

The new additions come as the Defense Department begins its review of installations and locations named for the Confederate States of America or for those who served in the Confederacy, including 10 well-known Army bases.

Beginning this summer, a commission tasked with renaming the facilities will visit all 10, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and four locations in Virginia, including Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Belvoir, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett.

The Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense That Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America, or simply, the Naming Commission, is being led by retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard.

Congress ordered the commission's creation as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which was subsequently vetoed by President Donald Trump, in part because of the renaming issue. Congress voted Jan. 1 to override his veto.

The Naming Commission is expected to look not only at base names but also at ships and assets that honor the Confederacy or the institution of slavery, Howard said. Fort Belvoir, for example, is on the list because it is named for the plantation that once occupied its site.

The group is expected to provide an interim report to Congress Oct. 1 and have its work completed next year. It is expected to provide suggestions for new names.

SPLC noted that since 2018, West Point and VMI have been in the process of removing or have removed five memorials to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Following the removal of the prominent Jackson statue at VMI, retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, the school's superintendent and first Black man to lead the institution, said VMI "does not define itself by this statue."

"We are defined by our unique system of education and the quality and character of the graduates the Institute produces. Our graduates embody the values of honor, respect, civility, self-discipline, and professionalism. This is how we will continue to be defined," said Wins, who graduated from the school in 1985.

SPLC also maintains a list of more than 2,000 memorials and names across the U.S., mainly in the South, that memorialize Confederates, as well as the status of any renaming processes.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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