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Board of Supervisors sends Fort Belvoir renaming concerns up to Secretary of the Army

Army headquarters at Fort Belvoir (via Fort Belvoir/Facebook)

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors is no stranger to renaming things, from roads to magisterial districts. But now, the board is leading a push not to rename a site associated with slavery.

In a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (March 7), Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck raised the topic of Fort Belvoir’s potential renaming. The base is named for the Belvoir plantation that once occupied the site.

In a final report last year, a Department of Defense Naming Commission recommended that Fort Belvoir be renamed. According to the Association of the United States Army:

One final matter involves Fort Belvoir, Virginia, named for a plantation that once occupied the land. Belvoir has ties to the Confederacy but was not named in 1935 in direct commemoration of the South. The commission was not given authority to rename Fort Belvoir, which was previously known as Fort Humphries, but the commission believes it should have a new name. The report “strongly encourages” the defense secretary and Army secretary to review the history of the installation, noting it was the site of the celebration of Confederate Memorial Day.

While Fairfax County and other localities have routinely renamed locations, the Fairfax County History Commission expressed concerns about the Naming Commission’s report for a few reasons, from questions about historical inaccuracies to uncertainty about the effect on how Black history should be represented at the fort, according to Storck.

“Any action taken by the army should be transparent, based on evidence, and include local community and stakeholders,” Storck said. “Removing the name Belvoir may reduce the likelihood that these stories of the enslaved African Americans and free Black residents who lived on the base will be told.”

Storck proposed that the Board of Supervisors recommend the Fairfax County History Commission’s report be sent to the Secretary of the Army and the Naming Commission Historian voicing their concerns. The proposal was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay said concerns about the renaming came up in a recent meeting with the base commander. Whatever the ultimate decision is, McKay said the process around the name change should be more transparent and should involve Fairfax County.

“I had an opportunity to sit down with the base commander for quite some time and this was the subject of conversation,” McKay said. “I know it’s created a lot of angst for Fort Belvoir. I think it’s important as this consideration is being made — not by the county — but that county input is part of the decision process.”

A public affairs officer from Fort Belvoir told FFXnow that any consideration of renaming the base will be open and transparent and the Fort Belvoir leadership has already started moving forward on renaming four streets honoring Confederate leaders:

The Naming Commission encouraged the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army to review the relevant historical facts and consider renaming Fort Belvoir. The Army will begin an open and transparent process to consider renaming the installation.

The redesignation of Beauregard Road, Stuart Street, Lee Road, and Johnston Road fit within the legislative mandate of the Naming Commission. Fort Belvoir has already begun consulting with the local community, through the Fairfax County History Commission, to recommend name changes for the four streets currently named after Confederate leaders.

In October 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III concurred with all of the Naming Commission’s recommendations, including redesignating nine Army installations with names that are rooted in their local communities and that honor American heroes whose valor, courage, and patriotism exemplify the very best of the U.S. military.

Fort Belvoir is standing by to assist in that effort as requested.

Photo via Fort Belvoir/Facebook