If The Military Renames Southern Bases, Whose Names Should Replace The Confederate Generals?
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / June 25, 2020
With the call for changing the names of 10 Southern military bases gaining momentum in Washington, the question is starting to arise in Washington — and outside of it — of what names might replace those of the Confederate generals they now bear.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The call for changing the names of 10 Southern military bases is gaining momentum in Washington. And that raises the question of what names might replace those of the Confederate generals. They now bear J price reports for the American Homefront project.
Speaker 2: 00:17 When Larry Wright was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the 1970s, eighties, and nineties, the name of the base, wasn't a big topic. Even among black soldiers like him.
Speaker 3: 00:27 We didn't talk about it a lot, but we heard and here and there that it was a Confederate general and it was a confusion because we said, well, how, how did they get the name basis after generals that did not win the war
Speaker 2: 00:41 Generals who were fighting for slavery and a war against the U S army, but times have changed. And then a big way. And right now a minister and Fayetteville, North Carolina city council members says brag. And the other bases across the South need to reflect that they don't all need to be renamed for black military heroes or prominent black leaders. But some should, if they're going to bear the names of Americans,
Speaker 3: 01:05 There needs to be a diversity of names that has chosen, that were reflect the country, reflect our communities in which we live probably one of the most diverse countries in the world. And that would do us proud.
Speaker 2: 01:18 Joseph gladhearted who teaches military history of the university of North Carolina chapel Hill says Braxton Bragg was a poor namesake, even beyond the central issue that he fought against the U S to defend slavery, a slave owner in civilian life. He was tactically competent, but a terrible leader, cantankerous and widely hated by the men who served with him. I wouldn't rank them. He w he wouldn't wouldn't make a list unless you had to include, say 500 or 300 or something. But if you asked me to give you the 10 best officers in the Confederate army, he wouldn't be in there. Or 20 part of the explanation is the general charged with approving names for new installations in the buildup for world war. One sought short words to reduce the burden of paperwork. Picking new names. Now might not be as simple Anthony shore founded operative words, an agency that helps develop names for companies and products.
Speaker 2: 02:18 He says professional name developers have to accept that people have subjective and sometimes idiosyncratic reactions to names. So, um, it may be that not every name could please every person that is a possibility, but we certainly know that some paths are more likely to lead to a broader acceptance. And other paths are likely to diminish, uh, that broad acceptance. Sure said the nation is in the middle of a sea change in which tolerance for racially insensitive names appears to be ending. He cited Quaker oats decision to change it to aunt Jemima brand for the basis. He said, good options could include people who never served in the military, but whose lives embodied shared American values, or it may be more productive to move away from people's names entirely. And instead think about ideals or attributes symbols of America that would likely be less divisive and less likely to have unsavory associations with our history.
Speaker 2: 03:20 You know, we have the USS constitution, for example, could something like that also be applied to military base. And then of course we have geography. Our country is home to countless places of inspiring and majestic, natural beauty, and surely that could be a productive resource for names that every American could be proud of. He said a good practice and naming things as to listen to all the key stakeholders and walk them through the implications of potential names. Because when you're presenting names, what you're really doing is you're presenting potential futures. And so my job when I present names is to help everyone in the room, see what that future might be. If they go with any one of those themes and for Southern military basis, the nation may be about to move into a new future. This is Jay price reporting.
Speaker 1: 04:12 This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.
Speaker 4: 04:31 [inaudible].