Ft. Bragg no more: Army base drops its Confederate namesake and becomes Ft. Liberty

A large entrance sign with U.S. Army symbols reads "Fort Liberty" and "All American Gate."
The U.S. Army has changed Ft. Bragg’s name to Ft. Liberty as part of a broader initiative to remove Confederate names from bases.
(Karl B. DeBlaker / Associated Press)

Ft. Bragg shed its Confederate namesake Friday to become Ft. Liberty in a ceremony some veterans said was a small but important step in making the U.S. Army more welcoming to current and prospective Black service members.

The change was part of a broad Department of Defense initiative, motivated by the 2020 George Floyd protests, to rename military installations that had been named after Confederate soldiers.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted nationwide after Floyd’s murder by a white police officer, coupled with ongoing efforts to remove Confederate monuments, turned the spotlight on the Army installations. A naming commission created by Congress visited the bases and met with members of the surrounding communities for input.


“We were given a mission, we accomplished that mission and we made ourselves better,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps at Ft. Liberty, told reporters after the ceremony that made the name change official.

Other bases are being renamed for Black soldiers, U.S. presidents and trailblazing women; the North Carolina military installation is the only one not renamed after a person. Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule said at a commission meeting last year that the new name was chosen because “liberty remains the greatest American value.”

“Fayetteville in 1775 signed one of the first accords declaring our willingness to fight for liberty and freedom from Great Britain,” said Donahue, referring to the city adjacent to the base. “Liberty has always been ingrained in this area.”

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The cost to rename Fort Bragg — one of the largest military installations in the world by population — will total about $8 million, Col. John Wilcox said Friday. Most front-facing signage has been changed, but the process is ongoing.

“The name changes; the mission does not change,” base spokesperson Cheryle Rivas said Friday.


Ft. Polk in Louisiana will be the next installation to change its name, becoming Ft. Johnson on June 13 in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson. The naming commission’s proposed changes must be implemented this year.

Ft. Liberty was originally named in 1918 for Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general from Warrenton, N.C., who was known for owning slaves and losing key Civil War battles that contributed to the Confederacy’s downfall.

The Mendocino County town of Fort Bragg considered changing its name, which honors Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, after the death of George Floyd.

June 23, 2020

Several military bases were named after Confederate soldiers during World War I and World War II as part of a “demonstration of reconciliation” with white Southerners amid a broader effort to rally the nation to fight as one, said Nina Silber, a historian at Boston University.

“It was kind of a gesture of, ‘Yes, we acknowledge your patriotism’ — which is kind of absurd, to acknowledge the patriotism of people who rebelled against a country,” she said.

The original naming process involved members of local communities, although Black residents were left out of the conversations. Bases were named after soldiers born or raised nearby, no matter how effectively they performed their duties, or whether they fought against the Union in the Civil War. Bragg is widely regarded among historians as a poor leader who did not have the respect of his troops, Silber said.

For Isiah James, senior policy officer at the Black Veterans Project, the base renamings are a “long overdue” change that he hopes will lead to more substantial improvements for Black service members.

“America should not have vestiges of slavery and secessionism and celebrate them,” he said. “We should not laud them and hold them up and venerate them to [the point that] every time a Black soldier goes onto the base, they get the message that this base ... is named after someone who wanted to keep you as human property.”

At last week’s “All American Week,” a celebration of the 82nd Airborne Division and one of the last major events under the Ft. Bragg name, several veterans expressed mixed feelings about the name change.

Gregory Patterson, 64, a former member of the 82nd Airborne who served in the Army from 1977 to 1999, joined scores of veterans for the celebration. Patterson said that he understood why they changed the name, but that in his mind, the name is associated with the place, not the person — and specifically as the home of the 82nd Airborne.

“I’m still gonna call it Bragg, even though the person that they named it after wasn’t a good person,” he said.

The House has approved a bill to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol as the country continues to deal with its history of racism.

June 30, 2021

Mark Melancon, 63, who served from 1983 to 1990, wore a T-shirt that read “Born at Benning, raised at Bragg.” Ft. Benning, in Georgia, was renamed Ft. Moore last month.

Asked about the change to Ft. Liberty, Melancon replied: “We’re not thrilled about that. It’s always gonna be Bragg, the way we look at it.”

The name Bragg, he said, conjured up strong feelings and memories: “Home. The camaraderie that we had. The brotherhood.”

Staff Sgt. James Fannin of the 82nd Airborne said the new name doesn’t change anything for the paratroopers who volunteer to jump out of a “perfectly good airplane” behind enemy lines at any time.

“Changes at the base have no effect,” he said. “All that matters is the patch on my left shoulder.”