Two plaques honoring Robert E. Lee in Brooklyn will be removed
General Lee Avenue and Robert E. Lee’s former home on Fort Hamilton, via Jeremy Bender/Business Insider
Following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, officials announced Tuesday that two plaques honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee outside of a Brooklyn church would be taken down. The plaques, tacked to a maple tree, belonged to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Hamilton, although the church has been closed since 2014. As Newsday reported, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island owns the church and will sell it.
The tree that grows there now sits on the same spot where Lee planted a maple tree during his time as a military engineer at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s. In addition to Lee, several other military officials worshiped at St. John’s, but at a different building than what remains today. The state’s chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy installed the plaques on church grounds in 1912, 50 years after Lee led the Confederate army during the Civil War.
Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island’s Episcopal Diocese told Newsday: “People for whom the Civil War is such a critical moment–and particularly the descendants of former slaves–shouldn’t walk past what they believe is a church building and see a monument to a Confederate general.”
While it’s a victory for many who have pushed for the plaques’ removal over the years, Brooklyn’s Confederate history still remains visible. As 6sqft recently learned, the U.S. Army decided to keep the names of two streets that honor Confederate generals in Fort Hamilton. Despite a push from advocates and public officials, General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive will remain because Fort Hamilton, an active military base, is not affected by city laws.
Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke wrote to the Army in June asking for the names to be changed. The Army rejected Clarke’s request and said it would be too contentious to rename them. “After over a century, any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive,” the Army’s deputy assistant chief of staff, Diane Randon, wrote to Clarke. “This is contrary to the Nation’s original intent in naming these streets, which was the spirit of reconciliation.”
Clarke said she’ll keep fighting for the removal of the street names that honor Confederate generals. On Tuesday, the congresswoman tweeted: “Thank you @LIDiocese for removing these Confederate monuments! Next the streets at Fort Hamilton.”