ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The names of two members of the Confederacy should be removed from buildings at the U.S. Naval Academy, the chairman of the academy’s Board of Visitors said Thursday.
Rep. C.A Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, said the Pentagon should consider removing Confederate names from all military bases as people across the country protest against racial inequality and police brutality.
“There has been discussion of renaming these buildings since at least 2017,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “As the new Chairman, the time for discussion is over. It’s time for action. Midshipmen who have earned the privilege to study in one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions should not have to walk around campus and see buildings named for men who fought to uphold slavery and promote white supremacy.”
At the U.S. Naval Academy, where the names of the nation’s military heroes adorn many buildings, two structures honor the memory of American naval officers who fought against the United States of America.
The academy superintendent’s residence is named after Franklin Buchanan, the academy’s first superintendent who left to join the Confederate Navy at the start of the Civil War. The academy’s Weapons and Systems Engineering division is house in Maury Hall. It’s named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, who was a leader in the fields of naval meteorology and navigation. He headed the coast, harbor and river defenses for the Confederate Navy.
“This isn’t about erasing history,” Ruppersberger said. “We simply shouldn’t lift up traitors who fought against American values like equality and tolerance.”
The congressman said he would bring up the issue at the board’s next meeting. The board is similar to a board of trustees at a civilian college and includes members of Congress. He also said he would offer an amendment to appropriations measures in Congress to require the academy to rename the two buildings.
“We are working hard to attract minority applicants to our service academies and all of our service branches,” Ruppersberger said. “We must send a strong and unequivocal message to all potential minority applicants that we stand united in opposing the glorification of leaders who defended slavery.”
The president said the controversial names are an important part of American military history and heritage.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration will “not even consider” changing the name of any of the 10 Army bases that are named for Confederate Army officers. Two days earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated he was open to a broad discussion of such changes.
Supporters of disassociating military bases from Confederate Army officers argue they represent the racism and divisiveness of the Civil War era and glorify men who fought against the United States.