Fort Liberty: Divided views on changing Fort Bragg’s name

Fort Liberty: Divided views on changing Fort Bragg's name

 Fort Bragg may soon go by another name: Fort Liberty.

In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Congress charged the Naming Commission with renaming any military installation whose name commemorates the Confederacy.

Fort Bragg is named after North Carolina native Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general and a slave owner prior to the Civil War. 

The Naming Commission released the potential new name of Fort Bragg, along with eight other military installation names that commemorate the Confederacy, in April.

In October, the commission will present the new names to Congress for review, after which the U.S. Department of Defense will implement the new names by Jan. 1, 2024, per the federal legislation.

According to documents from the Naming Commission, Liberty was chosen as a name due to its value being “more essential to the United States of America and the history of its military” than any other.

Views on name change

Jimmy Buxton, president of Fayetteville’s NAACP chapter, said that while growing up in the area he wasn’t aware that Bragg was named after a Confederate general. But after learning the history in adulthood, he supports the change.

“If you have a chance to correct it, correct it,” he said, referring to the racist history of Confederate monuments and commemorations.

Some, however, feel differently about the name change.

Grilley Mitchell, president of the Cumberland County Veterans Council, said he viewed the name change as erasing history.

“You should never try to erase history,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that he that (does) not learn from history (is) doomed to repeat it.”

Mitchell, a Black man who grew up in the Jim Crow south in Georgia, said the name change won’t heal the racist past of that era.

“Changing the name, it’s not going to heal anything, it’s not going to fix anything,” he said. “To me, it covers it up by putting a coat of paint on something.”

Mitchell said the history involved with the name of Fort Bragg shouldn’t be ignored.

“That’s just the truth, this history,” he said. “That’s the ugly part of history in this nation. That is something that we should understand and know that no human being that walks the face of this Earth should be subjected and treated in that manner. Period.”

Mitchell did say he recognized that some view the name change as stopping the glorification of Confederate figures.

“Some feel and believe that taking that name away would allow them to move forward with that part of the past behind them,” he said.

Buxton said, speaking specifically to white people who oppose the renaming, that change is inevitable.

“Change is something most people don’t know how to take, especially when you do a big change like this,” he said. “I can live with the name change because I can see the reason why, I would say, a lot more because of my color as a Black man.”

While many may not be ready for the change, regardless of their reason, Buxton said it is for the better.

“That’s something I think we as a people have to get used to, change for the better,” he said. “In the long run. We shouldn’t have a Confederate general’s name on an Army post, especially one who owned slaves.”

Even though Mitchell initially opposed the change, he said that many in active duty, as well as veterans, will accept it.

“The decision was made, and I’m an old soldier,” he said. “Once the leaders make the decision, we adapt to the new decision.”

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