SOUTH CAROLINA: Army’s Largest Training Base Has More Confederate Names Than All But 3 Other Bases
One in four roads on Fort Jackson could be renamed as part of a wide-ranging study that has already suggested new names for nine military bases with Confederate ties.
The same panel that on Aug. 8 announced renaming nine Army bases to scrub Confederate references would cost about $21 million has also compiled a list of streets, buildings and other symbols that could be changed. The Naming Commission, established during the national reckoning with Confederate iconography in the wake of the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of police, is still working on its final report recommending how to handle the more than 850 items on its list.
The list ranges from Navy ships stationed in Japan that are named for Confederate victories to the floor mats in the commissary at Fort Lee. Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia had the most symbols on the list with 215, followed by Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Rucker in Alabama and Fort Jackson. The items are largely clustered in former Confederate states. In South Carolina, they’re almost all street names.
Fort Jackson reviewed more than 200 roads, 1,200 buildings and dozens of training areas on the 51,000-acre post in Columbia. The inventory released by the Naming Commission includes 60 Fort Jackson streets and three buildings. In half a dozen cases, it’s unclear if streets are named for a Confederate soldier or someone else. But for most of the names on the list, such as Beauregard Street, Semmes Road and Stuart Avenue, the ties to the Confederacy are clear.
“We looked to identify any assets that might commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served with the Confederate States of America,” said L.A. Sully, a Fort Jackson spokeswoman. “If we end up with the recommendation to change things, then we’ll be told that process.
“We’re waiting for directives.”
The list is not 100 percent accurate: It includes McWhorter Street and notes it is named for William A. McWhorter. McWhorter was a Medal of Honor recipient from Liberty, who served during World War II.
Fort Jackson was built in 1917, 52 years after the end of the Civil War.
The push to rid public spaces of Confederate statues and names after Floyd died prompted more changes in a few months than in the prior four years combined, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which began tracking Confederate symbols after a white supremacist killed nine Black people at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015.
Bridges and schools were renamed. Some statues came down via crane at the request of local government leaders. Others were pulled from their pedestals by protesters.
But in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union and the site of many Civil War battles, more than 200 roads, schools and statues honoring the Confederacy have largely gone untouched. They’re protected by a deal struck in the law that 22 years ago removed the Confederate battle flag from atop the Statehouse dome.
The Heritage Act banned removal of any other flags or war memorials on public property unless two-thirds of the Legislature agreed. Five other states passed similar laws aimed at keeping monuments in place. The state Supreme Court last year struck down the supermajority vote requirement but allowed the rest of the law to stand.
The city of Charleston is facing a lawsuit for removing a marker celebrating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. from a school campus and changing the name of Memminger Auditorium downtown.
The Citadel has said the law is preventing it from taking down a Confederate flag from a chapel on campus that leaders voted to remove in 2015. Greenville, where city leaders want to move a Confederate statue from its perch downtown to an adjacent cemetery, hit the same roadblock.
The last time the Legislature voted in favor of removing a Confederate symbol was in 2015, when lawmakers agreed after the racially motivated murders in Charleston to remove the Confederate flag from the spot on the Statehouse property where it had flown since 2000.
None of South Carolina’s military bases are named for Confederate soldiers. The state’s largest Army post is Fort Jackson, named for Andrew Jackson, a South Carolina native who became the seventh U.S. president but whose legacy includes racist policies and his poor treatment of Native Americans.
Those who want to see Confederate symbols left in place argue they are symbols of Southern pride and culture, not markers of white supremacy. But the vast majority were erected decades after the Civil War, in the wake of Reconstruction during the Jim Crow era and during the civil rights movement.
University of Virginia researchers found that counties across the South with more Confederate monuments had more lynchings between 1832 and 1950.
Lecia Brooks, chief of staff and culture for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she was initially shocked that military leaders had decided to change base names after Floyd’s murder, and was surprised by the level of detail in the Naming Commission’s work to identify Confederate symbols. All of it should be eliminated, she said.
“It’s completely ridiculous to honor the group that stood against the United States in a treasonous act of war,” Brooks said. “You have people of color that are force to serve on a military installation or live on a street that’s named after people who fought to enslave them. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
It’s unclear whether the commission will endorse renaming the streets on Fort Jackson. The panel decided this month to allow the 29th Infantry Division to keep its blue and gray patch. On the same day, it recommended the removal of 457 Confederate battle streamers, or ribbons, that units carry atop their flags to commemorate past battles they participated in. Five South Carolina units are among those across 11 Southern states that would have to remove the streamers. The 118th Infantry Regiment at Mount Pleasant has one; the 751st Support Battalion in Eastover has 20.
The Naming Commission’s final report to Congress is due Oct. 1. The final call on their recommendations rests with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.