Slave to history: Army won’t change ‘racist’ street name despite plea from black leaders

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Apparently, a road by any other name would spell defeat.

The U.S. Army has no plans to change a street named for a Confederate general stationed at Ft. Hamilton Army Base — despite pleas from black church leaders who say the name is racist.

Members of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network rallied in front of the 190-year-old Bay Ridge base on June 25 to denounce General Lee Avenue — named for Gen. Robert E. Lee — and call for a less racially charged moniker following the shooting death of nine black South Carolina churchgoers — including a state senator — allegedly by a white gunman who posted photos of the Confederate flag to social media. The activists said newly minted congressman Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge) could use his position to urge the Department of Defense to rename the road, but they say he isn’t taking Sharpton’s calls.

“The silence is deafening, but it’s not surprising — this is the same individual who did not think Eric Garner deserved justice,” said National Action Network Brooklyn chapter president Kirsten John Foy, referring to the grand jury empaneled by then-Staten Island district attorney Donovan that chose not to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the homicide of a black man who died while being arrested for selling loose cigarettes.

Donovan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lee was a decorated soldier in the U.S. Army who was stationed at Ft. Hamilton for five years before turning down command of the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War in favor of leading Confederate troops in his home state of Virginia. That choice supersedes any good he may have done prior to the Civil War, according to Foy.

“All that service went out the window when he decided to engage in treason,” Foy said.

The battle is personal for Sharpton’s daughters, who grew up under he shadow of the street sign.

“My sister and I had to go through here every day to visit our mother serving as a sergeant in the U.S. army,” said Dominique Sharpton, who said she was born in the now-closed Victory Memorial Hospital and graduated from Poly Prep in Dyker Heights. “What kind of message is a sign like this giving to our youth?”

The demand for the name change comes as part of a national sea change in attitudes towards symbols of the Conferderate States of America in the wake of the Charleston shooting. National chain stores such as Walmart and Target have yanked products featuring the Confederate battle flag from their shelves, and online sellers including eBay and Brooklyn’s own Etsy have banned rebel swag from their sites.

But the Army has no plans to alter streets or bases named for Confederate soldiers, according to a statement.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) is also calling on the fort to nix Lee Avenue.

“Brooklyn is one of the most diverse counties in America, with sizable communities of color,” Jeffries said. “There is no good reason for a street to be named after an individual who led the Confederate Army in the fight to keep slavery and racial subjugation alive in America. It is my hope that we will do the right thing and find an appropriate local hero for whom the street can be renamed.”

Other federal politicians have not made their opinions clear. The National Action Network has not reached out to New York’s U.S. senators or Mayor DeBlasio about the street, Foy said.

There are 5,000 Civil War veterans interred at nearby Green-Wood Cemetery — including 74 Confederate soldiers and two Confederate generals, according to cemetery historian Jeff Richman.

Rev. Sharpton will hold a candlelight vigil at the fort’s entrance on Saturday evening, Foy said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Better change the name of North and South Carolina, named after the King who allowed the sale of slaves.

Good thing no non whites ever captured or sold slaves.
June 26, 2015, 5:53 am
tony from sunset park says:
While I can see the connection between Lee & the base predating the civil war, what I find interesting is that our military doesn't really seem to care which side you are on as long as there is war....War, war, What is it good for? The military-industrial complex!
June 26, 2015, 8:51 am
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
As long as the Army is naming base streets after traitors, why don't they name one for Benedict Arnold?
June 26, 2015, 9:02 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
maybe schools should eliminate all the pages that talks about slavery and civil war in American History textbooks.
June 26, 2015, 10:28 am
Sgt. Ritzik from Fort Hamilton says:
Q: How many free Pennsylvania blacks did the Confederate army under Gen. R.E. Lee kidnap during the Gettysburg campaign?

Beneath the silver beard and superficial charisma, Lee was mostly an arrogant scumbag.

The historical record, if one cares to look at it closely, bears this out, in his own mealy-mouthed words and others.

This not to imply a whole lot of Union generals did any better by Native Americans out west after the war but let's stop the fawning delusions also, please.
June 26, 2015, 1:39 pm
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights says:
Good for the Army for not caving in to the demands of the likes of Al Sharpton! This street was named in honor of General Lee as an effort of reconciliation/sign of reunification following the Civil War (not to celebrate the Confederacy). Stop trying to scrub history to suit modern agendas.
June 26, 2015, 10:34 pm
Colonel Hall from Fort Hamilton says:
Prospect, what do you actually know about Lee's efforts at reconciliation etc? There were PLENTY of people back from 1865 until his death who were wary of, then outright hostile towards Lee's attempts to somehow scrub himself and "his" men clean. (Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens had their own issues to deal with.)

While not your incorrect that this is why Lee was honored, don't kid yourself into thinking everyone thought it was good or correct idea.

Also, there's a diference between reconcilation of a nation and HONORING a traitor and examplar of the slave power aristocracy.

Ignore Sharpton-- all of them-- and history is the same. Only thing Lee 'deserves' is a posthumous kick in the nuts from a freeman.
June 27, 2015, 12:05 am
Fred Douglass from New Utrecht says:
Q: how many slaves did Lee own?

Q: how many slaves dis Lee himself whip or ordered whip?

Q: what exactly what Lee's particular interesti in slave girls of certain complexion?


Lee was NOT just a 'man of his time' in regard to these issues, he was a man of immense priviledge (via his 'pious' wife's $$$), he was the emblem and primary actor of the slave power aristocracy.

What part of this is confusing except that once he LOST... he wanted to lose with "honor" (which he never showed his slaves or other black peoples.)
June 27, 2015, 12:16 am
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights says:

The main problem with your argument is that plenty of our "founding fathers" were " traitors" (and King George wasn't exactly pleased) and served as examples of the "slave power aristocracy." Hell, the country was built on slavery and treason. But, we put aside our differences and are grateful for the nation that we are today despite our troubled past. Signs of reunification and reconciliation are more powerful than signs of division in my view.
June 27, 2015, 9:28 am
JAY from NC says:
As for Sharptons daughters, I call b.s. on this, I don't believe a single word from her. She just sued the city for "permanent injury" to her foot due to uneven pavement that which she alleged caused the injury and then afterwards she posted pictures of her self climbing a mountain. see the story at
What KIND of message is that giving the Youth today Ms. Sharpton??!!!
As for Foy, those comments are a disgrace and a smear tactic. If you think someone is a racist then you'd better have some actual evidence of it, and there is none to suggest such. Shame on you Foy.
Jefferis, again, he needs to deal with the fact that his district is doing terrible and that he is doing ZERO to fix that.
Hey BP why don't you do a story on that? Why don't you do a story on how lousy black people, and people in general, are doing in Jeffiries district?
Nealry 25% under the poverty line, with a per captia income of $23, 000, well below both national and NYC. How about the unemployment rate of over 15% in the Honorable Jeffries distinct BP?
Where are your reporters on that BP, the REAL news?
BP why don't you mention that this district is monitored by the US DOJ for Section 5 of the Voting Right Act purposes because of all the nonsense that has gone on there?
BP why don't you do a story on Jeffries sum effort to fix up his constituents lives is introducing a bill to go after retailers who knowingly sell toy that were recalled?
BP why don't you do a story on Jeffiries getting at least half of his money from out of state and wall street?
Why BP do you not mention that Ft Hamilton is not in Jeffreis District?
Again Jeffreis, if you readthisorifany of your tax paid staffers read this, you are misguided on this issue, the street is NOT named Lee to honor him, it a reminder that the Union defeated him.
Now please go back your district and do something productive to help all those people who voted for you who are suffering with 25% poverty rate. Do something about THAT Mr.Jeffires. THAT is what YOU were elected to do.
June 27, 2015, 12:51 pm
Col. Hall from Ft Hamilton says:
Please IGNORE Sharpton, that's a red herring. I agree they family is 1000% untrustworthy.

Nonetheless, the historical record is clear and even the surviving correspondence of Lee corroborates the fact that he a traitor for the slave power aristocracy (this is the proper term).

That's NOT being a man of your time like Jefferson etc that's trying to extend a time which plenty of people recognized as evil, corrupt and corrupting.

A laudable career thrown away for Ego and Power, that's all.

The MYTH MAKING otherwise began with the surrender at Appamatox, don't be fooled otherwise.
June 27, 2015, 2:09 pm
Paula Jones says:
They met them half way - the street won't be re-named, but it will be paved with BLACK asphalt. How black does it have to be?!
June 28, 2015, 1:28 pm
Cpl Barbella from Fort Hamilton says:
Fact is Robert E. Less was a POS and a TRAITOR, who ** lost ** and didn't have the real honor to step back.

His ** only ** motivations were $$$, power, and white supremacy.

That we could have spent the last 150 years lying that it was otherwise when Lee's own words, and those of his contemporaries make this plain has been utter madness.

NO soldier or citizen of any race or region should hold this man in anything but utter contempt for his actions after 1861.

Ya'll should read a book by Elizabeth Brown Pryor called "Reading The Man," which went in one way and came out another-- because Lee DID reveal himself and it sure as hell wasn't 'honorable.' (Unless you want to own and trade in black folks, in which yah, Run Bobby Run!)
June 28, 2015, 5:50 pm
Robert Lee from Fort Hamilton says:
The Black history they dont want you to know:
June 28, 2015, 8:05 pm
Dan from Boerum Hill says:
There's plenty of racism in the North and there has been since well before the Civil War. It sometimes feels like token moves like this are used to feel good about ourselves, point fingers elsewhere, and blame others for racism rather than examining our own racial issues and try to promote greater fairness in contexts that actually make a difference. Does it matter to someone in East New York that there's a far away street named after long dead person when they are paying more than half their income on rent due to onerous building codes that prevent affordable housing from being built?
June 29, 2015, 10:48 am
Trudy from Brooklyn Heights says:
So Dan might be a proud racist, and wants to declare it to the world - but not me!
I'm ashamed! Of both him and you.
June 29, 2015, 11:45 am
General William Babcock Hazen from Fort Hamilton says:
# streets in Brooklyn named after black persons 1640-1865? Zero

# streets in Brooklyn named after Dutch & English slave owners? Lots.

There is, as others have noted, zero way to talke your way out of Robert E. Lee's craveness or treason.

To do so is only to perpetuate bald lies and to lie to oneself.

Again a Question: how many FREE blacks did the Confederate forces under Gen. Lee KIDNAP during the Gettysburg campaign?

** THAT'S ** your goddamn street name there...

I'd love to see someone defend it, especially-- hint hint-- since the Fort Hamilton street was named AFTERWARDS?
June 29, 2015, 2:52 pm
Bob from Fort Greene says:
Following his graduation from West Point, Lee had a distinguished career as an Army engineer on the east coast and in the St. Louis area. He demonstrated genius as a combat leader in the Mexican War (OK, so you hate the Mexican War; still, he did great work in that campaign). In an era when most Americans felt themselves a citizen of their state first and of the country second, he chose to stand with his state when the time came to choose. By and large, he proved himself a more adept general than anybody the Union offered against him. Oh yeah, Lee has the bona fides to have lots of streets named after him. Lee will be remembered long after the Shakedown Sharptons have been, thankfully, forgotten.
June 29, 2015, 2:58 pm
General William Babcock Hazen from Fort Hamilton says:
Bob, there are crimes don't come back from. You think a little, now think some MORE-- you clearly haven't read much about the ** propaganda ** campaign that was "reconciliation," etc.

Had R.E. died in March 1861, sure name a street or name your cat after him, "man of his time" and all that.

To name a goddamn street in American Army base after Lee, ** AFTER ** he lost the war, and ** AFTER ** numerous of his war crimes have been documented (let alone his whipping of slaves before the war but we can just "overlook" that for now) is absolutely absurd. on every level.

Tell us about R.E. Lee's career 1861-1865 and how that affected the men and women of Brooklyn--

and of the numerous Virginians-- including Army officers-- who were Unionists?

Lee is an icon of the Slave Power Aristocracy, you can stack up all the dead Mexicans and Union men in the world and that fact doesn't change.

That is what you or the Army should "honor"?

As if 1861 and afterwards never happened?
June 29, 2015, 5:20 pm
Trixie wing-fan from Sheepshead Bay says:
As a I minority, I too am offended that no 19th century Streets are name after prominent Fillipino Americans, General William Babcock Hanzen!
But we must remember to love like there's no tomorrow, feel as there's no one else on Earth, and Dance when no one's watching.
Joy is not about getting - it's about being. You are too focused on a male-driven model of aggression to get. In the end you have nothing but anger. Have you ever tried to feel? I mean really feel. With feminine mindfulness?
June 30, 2015, 2:53 am
E. Krauss from Formerly of Flatbush says:
Simple solution: Rename the street " Colonel Alexander Hamilton Street"-- what better name than a military hero of the American Revolution who fought nearby, aide to George Washington, and who founded the Coast Guard?
Nov. 3, 2016, 2:52 am

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