In the 1840s two army soldiers who later fought for the South were stationed at Fort Hamilton, twenty years before the eruption of the bloody US Civil War. Those soldiers later became Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, among the most famous of the military men who fought on the side of the Confederacy.
After the war was won by the North, the streets were named after these important generals in an act of reconciliation, according to an army spokesperson.
But now four Brooklyn lawmakers, Representatives Yvette Clarke, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez and Hakeem Jeffries are calling for the street names to be changed. They say they took their inspiration from the city of New Orleans, who took down statues of Lee and other Confederate officers in their city.
“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,” Clarke said.
“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.”
The army, however, had refused the request, saying that the streets were named after Jackson and Lee “in the spirit of reconciliation” and that they were honored as individuals and not as the 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 a letter responding to the lawmakers’ pleas.
Clarke says she is not going to give up so easily, retorting 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.”
“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.”