US military academy begins removal of Confederate memorials from campus

The elite US military academy at West Point is removing Confederate monuments from its Hudson Valley campus in New York state, in accordance with a congressional review and orders set in motion by the Pentagon.

The removal, which includes a portrait of Gen Robert E Lee in Confederate uniform, began on 18 December. The academy, America’s oldest, said the operation to either take down or modify displays memorializing the Confederacy would be a “multi-phased process”.

Robert E Lee was a graduate and superintendent of West Point who was appointed commander of the Confederate army toward the end of the US civil war. The academy also has a stone bust of the general, bronze plaques dedicated to him, a gate, road, and academic facilities bearing his name.

Across the US over the past few years, statues and other public monuments linked to the Confederacy have been taken down as part of a wider societal reckoning with slavery and its enduring legacy. Many roads, military bases, university buildings and other structures have also been renamed.

Stone markers at West Point that commemorate the Confederacy will be modified “with appropriate language and images” said academy superintendent Lt Gen Steve Gilland. Among the items to be sent to storage or relocated is a bronze triptych which includes an image of a hooded figure appearing with the words “Ku Klux Klan.”

Gilland wrote to the West Point community last week saying that West Point’s memorialization, history, and museum (MHM) committee will comply with the recommendations of a congressional commission reviewing Pentagon property honoring the Confederacy “while still conveying the Plaza’s central message of reconciliation”.

In 2020, Donald Trump attempted to veto the committee’s recommendations but members of Congress voted to override his veto. The naming commission has noted that it was not created “with any intention of ‘erasing history’”.

“The facts of the past remain and the commissioners are confident the history of the cvil war will continue to be taught at all service academies with all the quality and complex detail our national past deserves,” the commission said.

“Rather, they make these recommendations to affirm West Point’s long tradition of educating future generations of America’s military leaders to represent the best of our national ideals,” it added.

source: theguardian.com