On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center released new data revealing 64 additional confederate symbols associated with the US military. The SPLC made the update to its Whose Heritage report which tracks confederate symbols across the country.
The organization began tracking all confederate symbols in public spaces after the horrific Emanuel Nine massacre in Charleston in 2015.
“Symbols of white supremacy should never have been associated with the military because they glorify a system of racial oppression and exclusion,” said Lecia Brooks, SPLC ‘s chief of staff in a statement. “As I testified during a Congressional hearing earlier this year, 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. The time to act is now.”
Most of the new confederate symbols identified are located at four of the country’s military colleges and service academies. There are three memorials in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; five at West Point; 20 memorials at The Citadel in South Carolina; and 28 at Virginia Military Institute.
The symbols at these institutions include monuments, buildings, and roads named after Confederate figures like Robert E. Lee, Franklin Buchanan, Francis H. Smith, and Matthew Maury. The SPLC notes that only five Confederate memorials associated with the military have been either removed or renamed since 2018.
In total, the SPLC has identified over 80 confederate symbols associated with the military and there are 10 military bases in the US named for Confederate leaders. The organization notes that the 1910s and the1960s saw the greatest increase in Confederate symbol construction, which is “corroborating evidence that these memorials went up as part of an organized propaganda campaign in response to Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement.”
Some military institutions have taken steps to reckon with their past association with Confederate history. In 2020, VMI removed a statue of Stonewall Jackson following a campaign led by alumni. However, researchers and activists say a more inclusive military cannot wait.
“The presence of these dehumanizing and oppressive displays and symbols is directly linked to white supremacist activity in the military. We’ve seen encouraging progress made, such as the National Defense Authorization Act’s mandate to remove Confederate names from Department-owned property within three years and the Marine Corps’ decision to remove any and all symbols of the Confederacy from their public and work spaces,” Brooks continues.
“But until a more inclusive military is established, this country cannot honestly work towards a more equitable American landscape.”
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