If not for a new report recently handed over to a congressional panel, no one would have paid any attention to a bronze plaque of a traditionally clad Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member hanging above a doorway at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.
The report was released by the Naming Commission, established by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 and created after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. The commission is tasked with making recommendations to Congress and the Department of Defense on naming, renaming, or removing “items that commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.”
According to The New York Times, the KKK plaque has hung above the doorway to the Bartlett Hall Science Center for decades. As cited in the report, the plaque falls outside of the scope of the commission’s power because while the KKK was founded by former Confederate soldiers, the group did not fully materialize until after the Civil War.
RELATED STORY: Cincinnati police officer relieved of her duties after body cam records her using N-word
The report, however, finds that the plaque “clearly ties in the KKK to the Confederacy,” and the commission “encourages the Secretary of Defense to address DoD assets that highlight the KKK in Defense Memorialization processes and create a standard disposition requirement for such asset.”
Ty Seidule, a retired brigadier general who serves as vice chair of the commission, explained to the Times that the plaque was included in the report “because we thought it was wrong.” Seidule added, “When we find something that’s wrong, but it’s not within our remit, we wanted to tell the secretary of defense about that.”
Aundrea L. Matthews, president of the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, says, “It was shocking for most people to see the image.”
Although there are several recommendations for the removal or renaming of assets at both West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy, the panel wrote in the report that the “commissioners do not make these recommendations with any intention of ‘erasing history.’
“The facts of the past remain, and the commissioners are confident the history of the Civil War will continue to be taught at all service academies with all the quality and complex detail our national past deserves.”
The commission has until Oct. 1 to make its recommendations to Congress and will review the names of “more than 750 Department of Defense items” across the nation and two at a U.S. military base in Japan, CNN reports.