Silent Sam Still With Us

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

He may be out of sight but he’s still around somewhere in the vicinity of his former roost–the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “While the dismantling of this Confederate monument was welcomed by many, others denounced the action, and their dissatisfaction was echoed by the state’s legislature, both houses of which have Republican majorities,” Michael C. Behrent, Altha Cravey and Jay M. Smith write in a post which appeared on the academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “On August 28, the UNC Board of Governors, which oversees the seventeen-campus system, passed a resolution giving UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and the institution’s Board of Trustees until November 15 to come up with a plan for the toppled monument’s ‘disposition and preservation’ (this deadline has since been extended until December).”

“On August 31, Folt issued a statement in which she observed that ‘different meanings’ were attached to the monument: while the university ‘repudiates’ Carr’s 1913 remarks and ‘the system of oppression they represent,’ the statue is also seen by many as ‘a memorial to fallen soldiers, many of them family members.’ She concluded: ‘Silent Sam has a place in our history and on our campus where its history can be taught, but not at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university.'”

Behrent is Associate professor of History at Appalachian State University. Cravey is an Associate Professor of Geography at UNC-Chapel Hill and Smith is an historian there. They note that the Black Faculty at UNC is understandably incensed at the prospect of finding a final resting place for the taciturn confederate. The 400 signatories who signed their petition agree.

The dissident faculty stated that: ““We have witnessed a monument that represents white supremacy in both the past and present be venerated and protected at the same time that we have been asked to serve as examples of diversity and inclusion. That is a demoralizing burden.A monument to white supremacy, steeped in a history of violence against Black people, and that continues to attract white supremacists, creates a racially hostile work environment and diminishes the University’s reputation worldwide.”

This story clearly has not reached a conclusion. For one thing, the “graduate student who had protested the monument was put on trial by the university’s Graduate and Professional School Honor Court on October 25 and 26,” Behrent, Carvey and Smith note. “Earlier this year, the student had coated the monument with a mixture of her blood and red paint.”

“During the trial, it was discovered that one of the judges was a law student who had once defended Silent Sam before UNC-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees, asserting: ‘It is our belief that the Silent Sam Memorial is a memorial to the brave North Carolinians who were defending their home state at the advance of the Union Army who was literally raping and pillaging their way through North Carolina on their march to the sea.’ The court found the student protestor guilty, sentencing her to 18 hours of community service and giving her a letter of warning.”