‘You cannot change history. We are a tight-knit community who do not favor changing our name, especially when pushed to do so by politicos who have never even visited our town and know nothing of our long and rich local history.’ ~ City Councilwoman Lindy Peters
This week, pressure has been building on Fort Bragg, a Mendocino County city north of San Francisco, named after a Confederate General, to change its name.
A likely change for Fort Bragg
The name change, which has been spurred in recent weeks due to increasing outcry to remove statues and names off of buildings of people who owned slaves or fought for racist beliefs, would follow dozens of such removals and changes worldwide, including the upcoming removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from the State Capitol rotunda in Sacramento.
The city of over 7,000 people will have a city council discussion next week on whether to include a name change vote during the election in November. This will be the second time such a name change will be discussed in Fort Bragg, following a 2015 request of a name change by the Legislative Black Caucus in the wake of the Charleston Church Shooting.
“While I completely agree with the effort to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state Capitol, I would argue that asking us to change our name is taking things a bit too far,” said then-Mayor and current City Councilwoman Lindy Peters in response to the request. “You cannot change history. We are a tight-knit community who do not favor changing our name, especially when pushed to do so by politicos who have never even visited our town and know nothing of our long and rich local history.”
Growing support for a name change
However, with the George Floyd protests remaining strong and many citizens and communities learning more about the past of many of these figures, such as General Braxton Bragg, the push for change is significantly more different in 2020 than 2015. The name change debate in Fort Bragg alone has brought comment and support from higher offices such as Governor Gavin Newsom, who has come out in support of the name change.
“This is the right move,” said Governor Newsom on Tuesday.
This is the right move. https://t.co/LzAAUcZlcC
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 16, 2020
Many local residents have also been swayed to support the name change.
“I was dead set against the name change in 2015. It’s part of history and our heritage,” said Fort Bragg resident Scott Hunt. “But it was actually my grandson of all people who changed my mind on this. He pointed out that Bragg himself fought for the Confederacy and was thus a traitor to the U.S. He made a point of asking to name a place in honor of Benedict Arnold or Aldrich Ames or someone like that.”
“Part of me wants to keep the name still, but the change needs to be made because of what he did. And, after all, cities change names to reflect new attitudes all the time. There’s a city in New Mexico (Truth or Consequences) that changed their name just to host a game show after all. Fort Bragg making a change does it for a more sobering reason.”
Fort Bragg had been named after General Braxton Bragg in 1857 in honor of his service during the Mexican-American War. However, Bragg’s family was deeply entrenched in slavery and violence against minorities with Bragg himself owning over 100 slaves in Louisiana. General Bragg would also then join with the Confederate states and lead the armies of Mississippi and Tennessee, fighting against the United States.
“Slave owner, racist, and he fought against the U.S.? I mean, I don’t want to change the name, but it’s hard to argue honoring someone who was all that. Even if you weigh it against his other service,” added Michelle Valentine, another Fort Bragg resident.
Other Bragg named places facing name changes nationwide
The question over renaming Fort Bragg also effects the military base of the same in North Carolina. While many military leaders, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, have been open to discussions over such changes, and the Pentagon being given three years by the Senate to remove all Confederate names, symbols, and monuments, President Donald Trump opts for keeping the names due to their history and heritage.
If the name change is successful, Fort Bragg would become the second Californian town to change their name away from something that honors the Confederate States of America. In 2018, Confederate Corners changed its name to Springtown following local disagreement over the name.
The Fort Bragg City Council decision on including a ballot question to change the name of the city is to be made on June 22nd during the City Council meeting.