FORT HAMILTON – Three years ago, local politicians and community leaders gathered in Fort Hamilton Park to call on the renaming of two street signs named after confederate generals. Now, they have renewed that call.
The streets—General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive—are named after Confederate generals. Both Lee and Jackson were stationed at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s while serving in the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War. In 2017, the U.S. Army rejected Congressional leaders’ call to rename the two streets. The Army told the Associated Press, “Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history. Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. It should be noted that the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division.”
When asked about the renaming of General Lee Avenue at his press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio responded, “His name should be taken off everything in America, period.”
This morning, Congress Woman Yvette Clarke and Congressman Max Rose sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper calling on him to change the names of the streets.
“We swore an oath as public officials to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ and to ‘bear true faith and allegiance to the same,'” the letter said. “While we were encouraged by news this week that the Army might consider renaming military installations named after Confederate generals, men who violated that oath to our country, we are similarly disturbed by recent statements by Administration officials suggesting that these names are part of a ‘Great American Heritage’ and are ‘Hallowed Ground.'”
“Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg are hallowed ground, places where Americans gave their lives to end the practice of slavery in our country—bases named after men who sought to keep their fellow men and women in bondage are not. We hope that you will act swiftly to rename the streets in Fort Hamilton and all places named after Confederate figures.”
“It is impossible to disentangle these men’s identities as individuals from the cause they rebelled against our nation to defend. U.S. military bases and property should be named after men and women who’ve served our nation with honor and distinction, not sought to tear it apart to uphold white supremacy,” the letter said. “And American service members deserve to serve on bases that honor their ancestor’s contributions to our nation, not those who fought to hold those same ancestors in bondage. Our Armed Forces should not honor men who divided this country to defend slavery.”
American history provides a proud litany of African American heroes, including many brave Brooklynites, who fought in the service of our country to uphold the core principle of democracy: that all men and women are created equal. We urge you to consider some of these men and women as suitable replacements for those who fought to uphold the lie that members of the human race are unequal. The streets of Fort Hamilton should be named after brave men and women who fought for our country and its values, not those who opposed them.”
Since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by a police officer in Minnesota, several Confederate statues have been removed by protestors all across the country.
“The renaming of the two Fort Hamilton streets is long overdue and I stand firmly in my position that we must do so as soon as possible!” Dr. Debbie Almontaser, co-founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association said. She was part of the fight three years ago. “After the horrific murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor this past week, and the countless Black lives that have been lost, I vow to remain consistent on my calls for justice, policy change, and renaming these streets.”
Bay Ridge Council Member Justin Brannan also believes enough is enough — Brooklyn deserves better.
“Three years ago we called for these streets to be renamed, and given that our city and country is once again in the middle of a reckoning of racial justice, it is time to renew that call. As a Councilmember, I help rename streets in honor of community heroes. We name streets to bestow high honor to a person’s name, and hold them in our neighborhood’s collective memory,” he said. “The confederate leaders for whom these streets are named deserve no such honor and no such memorial. We don’t need to rewrite or forget our nation’s past, but in the 21st century, we certainly do not need to revere what these men stood for. It is long past time to move on.”