Posted on May 23, 2022

Brooklyn Street Named for Robert E. Lee Now Honors Black War Hero

Karen Zraick, New York Times, May 20, 2022

A main street inside New York City’s only Army post now bears the name of a Black officer who died saving others in Vietnam — instead of the name of the Confederate general who led the South’s attempt at secession.

The street was renamed John Warren Avenue on Friday to honor First Lt. John Earl Warren Jr., a Brooklynite who was just 22 when he threw himself onto a grenade to save three men in his platoon. He was posthumously given the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, for his valor. It had been called “General Lee Avenue” after Robert E. Lee, who served at the base 20 years before the Civil War.

The new name was unveiled at a ceremony at the base, Fort Hamilton, which sits on the Brooklyn side of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. The change came after a yearslong push by local officials that gained steam amid the nationwide outcry over the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis two years ago.

Col. Craig A. Martin, commander of the garrison, said that he had wanted to change the name since he began his stint at Fort Hamilton in July 2020. {snip}


Other name changes may soon be coming. The Naming Commission, created by Congress last year, is charged with recommending new names for nine Defense Department posts that commemorate Confederate officers, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Hood in Texas. The law instructs the defense secretary to implement a plan based on the commission’s recommendations by 2024.


In the coming weeks, the base will also remove the name of Stonewall Jackson, another Confederate general, from a separate street. It is already co-named Washington Drive, and that name will remain, said Connie M. Dillon, a spokeswoman for the post.

Around the country, at least 230 Confederate symbols in public places have been taken down, moved or renamed in recent years, though thousands remain, mostly in the South.

New York officials had called on Fort Hamilton to remove Lee’s and Jackson’s names in 2017, after neo-Nazis and right-wing militias marched in Charlottesville, Va. At the time, the Army had said doing so would be “controversial and divisive.”

City Councilman Justin Brannan, who represents the area around the base and was one of the officials who had pushed for the change, applauded the Army’s reversal of its position.

“Not only did Robert E. Lee lead some of the Confederacy’s most consequential victories in their fight to protect slavery; he was also a traitor to his own country,” Mr. Brannan said.

“I can think of no better antidote than renaming this street in honor of John Earl Warren Jr., a Brooklyn-born hero.”