Fort Belvoir unveils new street name on 75th anniversary of U.S. military's desegregation
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir held a street renaming ceremony July 26 — the date on which President Harry Truman in 1948 signed an executive order desegregating the Armed Forces.
During the ceremony, held on the grounds of Woodlawn Chapel, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office (PAO) Director Ganesa Robinson explained that while the garrison ended up retaining its name following a 2021-2022 review by the congressionally mandated Naming Commission, four streets originally named for Confederate generals were recommended for renaming. Lee Road, a connector between Gorgas and Parke Roads on Fort Belvoir’s North Post, was the first to be designated for a name change.
Because of the garrison’s close ties and shared history with Fairfax County, county officials were active stakeholders during renaming discussions. As one of the presenters at the street renaming ceremony, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) Chairman Jeff McKay said the event was a big deal not just for the Army, but for Fairfax County’s largest employer — Fort Belvoir — and for the county as well.
“Being here today for this particular event is my proudest moment of coming on Fort Belvoir,” said McKay, adding that the renaming was “long overdue.”
McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck co-read and presented to Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander Col. Joseph Messina a resolution passed by the BOS, which pledged to honor and recognize the contributions and sacrifices of people of color in the Armed Forces, and the 75th anniversary of Executive Order (EO) 9981.
For his part, Messina highlighted how over the past 75 years, the Army has opened all career paths to Soldiers regardless of race, gender or religion, enabling it to become one of the most diverse organizations in the nation.
“This anniversary serves as a reminder of the unwavering commitment to justice, diversity and unity within our Armed Forces,” he said.
One of the highlights of the event was a speech by Rohulamin Quander, a retired senior administrative law judge for the District of Columbia. Quander, whose ancestors included slaves at the Mount Vernon Plantation, observed that the renaming ceremony was taking place on grounds that were once the home, workplace, place of worship and burial ground of members of the Quander family and others enslaved by George Washington.
“So, today my friends, the spirit of those interred alongside where we stand … are sharing what it means to be free, even if they did not fully enjoy that status as they lived,” said Quander. “But they now speak as we stand on hallowed and sacred ground.”
Quander also provided insights into the history of the military’s desegregation efforts and the injustices that persisted for many years for Black American service members.
Following his remarks, garrison and county officials unveiled a street sign featuring Lee Road’s new name: EO 9981 Road.
According to the Fort Belvoir PAO, new names have not yet been selected for the three remaining roads requiring name changes: Beauregard, Johnston and Stuart Roads.
Watch the renaming ceremony in its entirety on Fort Belvoir’s Facebook page.