NY rep presses Army to rename streets honoring Confederate generals

NY rep presses Army to rename streets honoring Confederate generals
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A New York congresswoman is vowing to fight the Army after it told her it will not rename two streets at a New York City base that are currently named after Confederate generals.

The controversy centers on Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue in Brooklyn's Fort Hamilton. Both Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson spent time at the base in the 1840s prior to the start of the Civil War.

“These monuments are deeply offensive to the hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn residents and members of the armed forces stationed at Fort Hamilton whose ancestors Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fought to hold in slavery,” Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) said in a Monday statement. “For too many years, the United States has refused to reckon with that history. I commend the city of New Orleans for initiating this important and often difficult work. I will continue to petition the Department of the Army to contribute to that effort.”

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In June, on the heels of New Orleans removing monuments honoring Confederate figures, Clarke and fellow New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez and Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to the Army asking them to rename the two Fort Hamilton streets.

In the June letter, the lawmakers said honoring Lee and Jackson with the street names is a “grievous insult” to Brooklynites who are descended from slaves.

In a letter responding to them, the Army said it recognized the “significance and sensitivity” of the issue.

The Army often names base streets after soldiers who hold a place in military history, and the “great generals” on both sides of the Civil War are “an inextricable part of our military history,” it said.

The streets were named after Lee and Jackson “in the spirit of reconciliation” after the war, the Army argued, and those two were recognized as individuals, not representatives of “any particular cause or ideology.”

“After over a century, any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive,” Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army Diane Randon wrote in the letter, released by Clarke’s office. “This is contrary to the nation’s original intent in naming these streets, which was the spirit of reconciliation.”

In her statement, Clarke said that arguing that renaming the street would be controversial is “nonsense.”

The reconciliation cited by the Army, she added, denied African-Americans interests.

“But that ‘reconciliation’ was actually complicity by the North and the South to ignore the interests of African Americans and enforce white supremacy, effectively denying the result of the Civil War for generations,” she said. “We are still living with the failure of this nation to fully accept that result, as well as the post-Civil War amendments that were ratified to establish the freedom of women and men who had been held in bondage.”