If you’re like us, then it truly has been a revelation in these past few weeks to learn that U.S. military installations throughout the South were named in “honor” of Confederate heroes in the Civil War.
Whenever we would hear the name, “Ft. Benning, Georgia,” for example, we never gave it a second thought. However, it turns out that Henry Benning was a general in the Civil War who led a number of campaigns against the North.
In short, he sought to destroy the United States — so how does a guy like that get a U.S. military base named after him?
Well, the short answer is that Benning was an avowed racist who wanted to destroy the Union so that the South could maintain slavery.
Here’s what he said at the Secession Convention in Virginia in February, 1861: “If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?”
It was not a coincidence that almost all of the military bases in the South are named after Confederate war heroes who, like Benning, also were notable for the roles they played in advocating for slavery before the Civil War and for white supremacy after the Civil War, including one general who was a founder of the Ku Klux Klan.
Almost all of these military installations came into existence during WWI and WWII when the U.S. was mobilizing millions of Americans from all around the country. The naming of the bases for Confederate war heroes was a concession to southern political leaders, who wanted to send the message that although the South had lost the Civil War, their belief in white supremacy nonetheless had prevailed.
And why did the military and Northern political leaders placidly go along with such a disgraceful tactic? The short answer is that racism was (and is) endemic in our country from North to South and East to West. During both WWI and WWII, the entire U.S. military was segregated, something that did not change until 1948 when President Harry S. Truman desegregated our armed forces.
These military base names are not merely a vestige of slavery, they also represent the entire history of our country’s racist past.
The sooner they go, the better.