NYC elected officials push to strip names of Confederate generals from Fort Hamilton streets

Security gate at Fort Hamilton. | AP Photo
Security gate at Fort Hamilton. | Craig Ruttle/AP Photo

NEW YORK — City elected officials are pushing for the names of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson to be removed from streets at a Brooklyn military base.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson backed the push at a press conference Thursday — with Thompson revealing that his own family was enslaved by Lee’s family.


“My father’s family, the Thompsons, on both sides were enslaved on the plantation of Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry Lee,” he said. “This issue is an emotional issue for many people like me. And it’s really hard for us to really feel fully a part of this country that celebrates our enslavement with names like that on military bases.”

At Fort Hamilton, an Army base in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the military has rejected past calls to change the names of Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue.

In a letter sent Thursday, Reps. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper to strip the Confederate generals’ names from the base.

“U.S. military bases and property should be named after men and women who’ve served our nation with honor and distinction, not sought to tear it apart to uphold white supremacy,” they wrote.

The Army said this week it is open to renaming installations honoring Confederate generals. But President Donald Trump denounced the idea.

“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a……history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” he said in a tweet Wednesday. “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

Rose, a U.S. Army veteran who won a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan, still serves in the National Guard. He and Clarke wrote that honoring Confederate generals was an affront to Union soldiers who died in the Civil War to end slavery.

“While we were encouraged by news this week that the Army might consider renaming military installations named after Confederate generals, men who violated that oath to our country, we are similarly disturbed by recent social media posts suggesting that these names are part of a ‘Great American Heritage’ and are ‘Hallowed Ground,’” Clarke and Rose wrote. “Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg are hallowed ground, places where Americans gave their lives to end the practice of slavery in our country; bases named after men who sought to keep their fellow men and women in bondage are not.”

De Blasio he would contact military leaders Thursday to push for the name to be changed.

“Nothing should be named after Robert E. Lee at this point in history,” de Blasio said. “He’s someone who was supposed to follow his oath to the United States of America and the United States military and didn’t – on top of his many other sins, and on top of the racism that he stood for.”

A spokesperson for Fort Hamilton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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