In the wake of riots and a murder in Virginia related to the removal of Confederate monuments, the Episcopal church this morning removed two plaques honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee on church property in Bay Ridge.
“I think it is the responsible thing for us to do,” Bishop Lawrence Provenzano 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.”
The plaques commemorated a spot where, according to legend, Lee planted a tree while he was stationed at Fort Hamilton as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers during the 1840s, before he became a Confederate military leader. He was a vestryman at the congregation of St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at 9818 Fort Hamilton Parkway near the army base.
The church is known as “the Church of the Generals,” because of all the military men who have worshipped there. By curious coincidence, another Confederate general, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, was baptized there.
The building dates from the 1890s, after Lee’s time; the congregation was founded in 1834. The plaques were bestowed in 1912 and 1935 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island closed the church in 2105 and the property is now for sale.
Not far away are General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive; Brooklyn politicians such as U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke have been calling for their renaming since the massacre of nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. The Army declined last week.
Tuesday, locals protested the two streets in front of the army base, according to the Brooklyn Reporter. Wednesday, Governor Cuomo asked the army to change the street names, the New York Times reported.
Another United Daughters of the Confederacy plaque honoring Lee still stands at the entrance to the Fort Hamilton army base.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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