Elizabeth Warren has called for the 10 military bases named after Confederate generals to be rechristened – an idea opposed by Donald Trump.
The Democratic senator said it was time to condemn the generals to ‘footnotes in our history books’ at a moment of ‘deep reflection’ on racism after the death of George Floyd.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Warren highlighted the sinister past of Confederate generals such as John Brown Gordon, a suspected KKK leader; Henry Benning, a fierce secessionist who feared a ‘land in possession of the blacks’, and Braxton Bragg, a slaveowner with a poor reputation even on the Confederate side.
Warren also attacked Trump for his opposition to renaming the bases, saying the president had ‘chosen a well-worn path of hatred and division’.
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren (pictured) last night demanded that the 10 military bases named after Confederate generals be rechristened
Warren highlighted the sinister past of Confederate generals with bases in their names, such as suspected KKK leader John Brown Gordon (left) and the slave-owning Robert E. Lee (right)
Warren – who quit the Democratic presidential race in March this year – has tabled an amendment to the annual defense bill to rename the 10 bases, telling senators it was an ‘opportunity to correct long-standing historic injustice’.
‘This year we consider legislation during a moment of deep reflection and anguish as Americans reckon with our ugly history of systemic racism and the original sin of chattel slavery,’ Warren said.
‘For weeks all across this nation Americans have taken to the streets to call for justice and call for an end to the racist violence that has stolen far too many black lives.’
Warren said her amendment was meant to ‘address the honors that our nation continues to bestow on Confederate officers who took up arms against the United States in the of chattel slavery’.
‘This bill denies those honors to military leaders who killed U.S. soldiers in defense of the idea that black people are not people, but instead are property to be bought and sold,’ she said.
‘These bases were named to honor individuals who took up arms against our nation in a war that killed more than half a million Americans.
‘They took up arms to defend an institution that reduced black people to property.
‘Those who complain that removing the names of traitors from these bases ignores history ought to learn some history themselves.’
Fort Bragg in North Carolina (pictured) is named after Braxton Bragg, a slaveowner with a poor reputation as a general even on the Confederate side
Warren continued: ‘The Confederate soldiers who betrayed the United States to fight for the Confederacy were fighting for the institution of slavery, plain, simple, ugly.
‘It is time to put the names of those leaders who fought and killed U.S. soldiers in defense of a perverted version of America where they belong – as footnotes in our history books, not plastered on our nation’s most important military installations.
‘Removing the names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy and anyone who voluntarily served it from military property is, in the broader scheme, only one step toward addressing systemic racism in our society, but it is an important step.
‘It will bring us closer to acknowledging the truth of that ugly past and it will give us a firmer foundation on which to build a better future for everyone.’
Warren said her bill would also cover ships such as the USS Chancellorville, named for a Confederate battle victory during the Civil War.
Trump rejected calls to rename the bases on June 10, saying they were ‘hallowed grounds’ and ‘magnificent and fabled military installations’ where soldiers have been trained for great American victories.
‘Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!’ he said.
Reports said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had been open to renaming the bases until Trump vetoed the idea.
Donald Trump (pictured) has rejected calls to rename the bases, saying they were ‘hallowed grounds’ and ‘magnificent and fabled military installations’
The 10 bases are all located in the South, most of them in states which voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
Many of the 10 men had previously fought for the US Army but defected to join the Confederacy when the 11 southern states seceded in 1861.
Most of them either owned slaves or their families did. One of them, Henry Benning, was vociferous in his defense of slavery and said abolition would lead to ‘black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything’.
His father owned more than 100 slaves, and tax records from 1863 show that he owned at least 89 slaves himself along with more than 3,000 acres of land.
The South’s most famous general Robert E. Lee inherited 189 slaves from his father-in-law, tried to block their freedom and had them beaten if they tried to escape.
Another general, John Brown Gordon – who owned a 14-year-old girl as a slave – is widely believed to have been a leader of the KKK in Georgia.
Warren also highlighted Braxton Bragg, after whom Fort Bragg is named – saying he ‘chose to take up arms against the United States… but he wasn’t very good at it’.
Bragg presided over a series of Confederate defeats and was disliked by his subordinates because of his bad temper and combative personality.