The history behind the naming of Fort Bragg as Pentagon considers renaming base

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the nation continues a tough conversation on race relations, ten Army installations with names honoring Confederate leaders are coming under scrutiny.

Fort Bragg is named after Warrenton native, Braxton Bragg, whose success in the Mexican-American War made him a national hero, but his weaknesses as a military leader were exposed and exploited by the Union during the Civil War. He was also a slave owner before the start of the Civil War and owned a sugar plantation in Louisiana. Fort Bragg is the Army's largest military installation with nearly 50,000 soldiers on post.

"It's pretty rare for the country to have a major military installation named for somebody who fought against that country. It was the Confederacy against the United States of America. He was killing American troops. He didn't fight under the banner of the United States of America and therefore, he was the enemy," said Dr. William Sturkey, a historian and assistant professor teaching the history of race in the American South at UNC Chapel Hill.

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A Department of Defense official said the protests following the murder of George Floyd were the catalyst for the Army's willingness to have this conversation. According to Sturkey, the local chamber of commerce named Fort Bragg after General Braxton Bragg because he was the only general from North Carolina during the Civil War.

"They just chose the name. The U.S. Army was more worried about mobilizing troops. They just let locals name it without thinking there would ever be a World War II, let alone a Vietnam War," said Sturkey. "They had no idea of the long-lasting impact it would have on Fayetteville."

For decades, critics have argued these installations pay homage to slave owners and white supremacy. Supporters insist posts like Fort Bragg hold significant historic value and keeping the name is about a heritage worth preserving.

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"It is a place that white people built and control. It's a place that honors white soldiers and fundamentally excludes other people by prioritizing white history over African American history," said Sturkey.

It's unclear what is next for the installation. While Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he's open to having these bi-partisan conversations, President Donald Trump said his administration won't consider changing the names of these installations.
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