A Ku Klux Klan plaque is affixed to the entrance of the U.S. Military Academy’s science center at West Point, New York, a congressional commission has discovered.
In a report released this month, the Naming Commission, which is reviewing Defense Department assets to identify and remove Confederate commemorations, included a photo of the bronze plaque. The words “KU KLUX KLAN” are underneath a depiction of a person in a hood, holding a rifle.
The plaque is part of a triptych at the entrance to Bartlett Hall, West Point’s science center, according to the commission.
The panel said it doesn’t have the authority to recommend removing the plaque because it isn’t specifically a Confederate monument.
“However, there are clearly ties in the KKK to the Confederacy,” the report said. “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 assets.”
In a statement, the U.S. Military Academy said the triptych was dedicated June 3, 1965, to West Point graduates who served in World II and Korea.
The statement noted that the triptych also depicts the Tree of Life to symbolize “how our nation has flourished despite its tragedies.”
“West Point does not accept, condone, or promote racism, sexism, or any other biases,” the statement said. “The Academy continues to graduate its most diverse classes ever with respect to ethnicity, gender, experience, and background.”
The congressional commission was established as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2021.
The report this month by the eight-person panel focused on West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
In addition to the KKK plaque, West Point has several monuments and buildings commemorating Confederate soldiers, which the commission recommended be removed or renamed. Five areas of West Point, including a child care center, are named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“No doubts exist that Robert E. Lee fought for the Confederacy: he was its most effective and storied leader, and by the end of the Civil War, Lee had risen to General in Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States,” the report said.
“The consequences of his decisions were wide-ranging and destructive,” it said. “Lee’s armies were responsible for the deaths of more United States Soldiers than practically any other enemy in our nation’s history.”
The costs of renaming parts of West Point and the Naval Academy would be anywhere from $1,000 to $300,000, the report said.
The Defense Department has until 2024 to “remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America,” according to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Naming Commission will file its third and final report before October.
Tim Stelloh contributed.