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Silent Sam

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Silent Sam
Silent Sam.jpg
Silent Sam in 2007
Location University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
Coordinates 35°54′50.22″N 79°3′8.55″W / 35.9139500°N 79.0523750°W / 35.9139500; -79.0523750Coordinates: 35°54′50.22″N 79°3′8.55″W / 35.9139500°N 79.0523750°W / 35.9139500; -79.0523750
Dedicated June 2, 1913; 105 years ago (1913-06-02)
Sculptor John A. Wilson
Silent Sam is located in North Carolina
Silent Sam
Location of Silent Sam in North Carolina

Silent Sam is a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier by sculptor John A. Wilson, which stood from 1913 until 2018 on the historic upper quad of the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. Its location on McCorkle Place, according to Chancellor Folt "the front door" of the university,[1] was described as "a position of honor".[2]

Establishing a Civil War monument at a Southern university became a goal of the North Carolina division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in 1907. UNC approved the group's request in 1908 and thus, with funding from UNC alumni and the UDC, Wilson designed the statue, using a young Boston man as his model. At the unveiling on June 2, 1913, local industrialist and UNC Trustee Julian Carr gave a speech espousing white supremacy.[3][4][5] Other speeches by Governor Locke Craig,[6] UNC President Francis Venable[7][8] and members of the UDC[9] noted the students' sacrifice during the war.[10][11]

Beginning in the 1960s, Silent Sam (a name that first appeared the previous decade) faced opposition on the grounds of its racial message, and calls to remove the monument reached a higher profile in the late 2010s. In 2017 UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt, who has described the monument as "detrimental to tbe university,"[12] said that she would remove the statue if this was not prohibited by a 2015 state law; during the 2017–18 year UNC spent $390,000 on security for the statue.

On August 20, 2018, protesters toppled Silent Sam and university authorities hauled it away in a dump truck.[3][13][2] UNC later said its location was being kept hidden for safety reasons.[14]

On August 31, Chancellor Folt issued a statement saying that Silent Sam's original location was "a cause for division and a threat to public safety," and that, with the approval of the university system's Board of Governors, she was seeking input on a "safe, legal and alternative" location for the statue elsewhere on campus.[15]

Early history, 1909–1913


The statue in John A. Wilson's Waban Studio, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

During the American Civil War, over 1,000 students and employees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) enlisted with either army.[16] Out of all enlisted from the university, 287 lost their lives.[17] University president David Lowry Swain was able to keep the university open throughout the war by educating the few students too young to enlist, exempt because of ill health, or discharged because of war injuries.[18] Students and faculty eligible to serve did so.[19]

In 1907, the North Carolina chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) decided that its next major goal was to "be the erection, on the campus at the State University, of a monument to the students and faculty, who went out from its walls in 1861 to fight and die for the South."[20] Later meetings described the belief that UNC students and employees who served in either army "are worthy of a monument" which "should ever be before the eyes of the present-day students".[16] The request for a monument was presented to, and approved by, the UNC board of trustees on June 1, 1908.[21]

The monument was funded by the university, alumni, and the UDC. UNC and the UDC spent until 1913 fundraising the $7,500[a] that Canadian sculptor John Wilson charged for the statue,[23] which he discounted from his asking price of $10,000.[16][24] The Daughters originally were slated to give $1,500 of the cost of the statue,[16] though their success at fundraising lead the university to ask for them to cover $2,500 by 1911.[24] Most of the rest of the cost was covered by alumni donations. UNC eventually had to give $500 to reach the contracted total of $7,500.[24] The statue was planned to be in place for the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War in 1911.[16] Raising funds to pay for the statue delayed the project by two years.[24]


In a manner similar to his earlier Daniel A. Bean sculpture, John A. Wilson created a "silent" statue by not including a cartridge box on the subject's belt so he cannot fire his gun.[25] Like the earlier sculpture, Wilson used a northerner—Harold Langlois of Boston—as his model.[23] This was part of a tradition of "Silent Sentinels;" statues created in the North, often mass-produced, depicting soldiers without ammo or with their guns at parade rest.[26] As with these other statues, this memorial was positioned to face north, towards the Union.[23]

A bronze plaque in bas-relief on the front of the memorial's base depicts a woman, representing the state of North Carolina, convincing a young student to fight for the Southern cause as he drops his books, representing students leaving their studies.[27] A small bronze inscription plaque on the left side of the base says,[b] "Erected under the auspices of the North Carolina division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy aided by the alumni of the university". Another bronze inscription plaque on the right reads,[b] "To the sons of the university who entered the War of 1861–65 in answer to the call of their country and whose lives taught the lesson of their great commander that duty is the sublimest word in the English language".[28][c]


Unveiling of the monument on June 2, 1913

The program for the unveiling of the monument started at 3:30 pm, on June 2, 1913. Speeches were given by, among others, Mrs. Marshall Williams, president of the local division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy; and Francis Preston Venable, the university’s president. The program concluded with a rendition of "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground".[30]

The Governor of North Carolina, Locke Craig, also spoke. "Ours is the task to build a State worthy of all patriotism and heroic deeds," he said, "a State that demands justice for herself and all her people, a State sounding with the music of victorious industry, a State whose awakened conscience shall lead the State to evolve from the forces of progress a new social order, with finer development for all conditions and classes of our people".[10]

The dedication speech which has attracted the most subsequent notice was given by Julian Carr, a prominent industrialist, UNC alumnus and Trustee, former Confederate soldier, and the largest single donor towards the construction of the monument.

W. Fitzhugh Brundage, the William B. Umstead Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, described this speech as one in which Carr "unambiguously urged his audience to devote themselves to the maintenance of white supremacy with the same vigor that their Confederate ancestors had defended slavery."[31] In it, Carr emphatically praised the student-soldiers and soldiers of the Confederate Army for their wartime valor and patriotism,[3] adding that "the present generation ... scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war ... Their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South."

According to Brundage, Carr's phrase "the four years immediately succeeding the war" is a clear reference to the Reconstruction era, when the Ku Klux Klan, working to restore the dominance of traditional white hierarchy in the South, terrorized blacks and white Republicans.[31] Later in the speech Carr boasted:

One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds because she had maligned and insulted a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison.[31]

In 2009, Carr's speech was rediscovered in the university archives by then-graduate student in history Adam Domby.[3] Domby included the above quotation in a letter to The Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper, in 2011.[32] Carr's speech was later publicized by activists campaigning for the statue's removal.[3]

Later reactions

20th century

The statue was originally called "Soldiers Monument" but was also referred to as the "Confederate memorial" from the 1920s through the 1940s.[33] The earliest known use of the name "Silent Sam" is from 1954, in the campus newspaper The Daily Tar Heel.[33] A story developed around the statue that "Sam" would fire his gun if a virgin walked by, but never did (he was silent) because he never saw any. In 1937 this story was called an "old local wisecrack".[33]

The monument has been a subject of controversy and a site of protest since the 1960s. In March 1965, a discussion about the monument's meaning and history occurred in the letters to the editor of the UNC student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel.[21] In May 1967, poet John Beecher "debated" Silent Sam, reading to the statue from his book of poetry To Live and Die in Dixie. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in April 1968, the monument was vandalized.[21][34] In the early 1970s, the monument was the site of several demonstrations by the Black Student Movement.[21]

In 1986, the statue was temporarily removed and shipped to Cincinnati, where it was cleaned and restored by bronze specialists Eleftherios and Mercene Karkadoulias. They repaired cracks, removed green oxidation, and gave the statue a protective wax coating. The refreshed statue was put back in place six months later. The cost was $8,600.[33]

Students gathered by the statue to speak out after Los Angeles police officers were found not guilty in the 1992 Rodney King trial.[35] In 1997, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march focusing on issues facing UNC housekeepers ended at the monument.[21]


Protest against Silent Sam, August 2017

Several protests in the late 2010s were directed toward the statue, along with calls for its removal.

In July 2015, the statue was vandalized with the words "Black Lives Matter", KKK, and "murderer", during a wave of vandalism targeting Confederate monuments.[36] A UNC history professor, Dr. Harry Watson, said that he believed the monument represented an important part of history but that its glorification promoted a false conception of the Civil War.[37]

In late July 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly passed SL 2015–170, the Cultural History Artifact Management and Patriotism Act of 2015, which states that "An object of remembrance [defined as "monument, memorial, or work of art"] located on public property may not be permanently removed". It does allow an object to be permanently relocated, provided that it is "relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access, ...within the boundaries of the jurisdiction from which it was relocated." Approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission is required.[38]

On the night of August 17–18, 2015, the statue was defaced with the words "Who is Sandra Bland?"[39]

On October 12, 2015, University Day, a group of about two dozen students, calling itself The Real Silent Sam Coalition, interrupted a speech by Chancellor Folt, shouting "Tear it down, tear it down, or we'll shout you down". They received applause from some faculty present.[40]

2017–2018 school year

Already in August 2017, it was reported that Silent Sam ”has been vandalized multiple times in recent years".[41] "Silent Sam has been a target for protest and vandalism for decades."[42]

"The push to get UNC to remove the statue...took off in earnest in August 2017",[42] after the proposed removal of Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia led to the Unite the Right rally on August 11–12, and on August 14, the toppling of the Confederate Soldiers Memorial in nearby Durham. Beginning in August there was "a year of sit-ins, rallies and protests involving students, faculty and community members".[42]

On August 15, 2017, a video taken by a passer-by shows a man beating the statue with a hammer.[43]

On August 17, 2017, Chapel Hill mayor Pam Hemminger sent a letter to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, requesting that it petition the North Carolina Historical Commission to immediately remove Silent Sam from campus "in the interest of public safety." "The possibility of a breach of the peace is high, and with it the likelihood that Silent Sam could suffer substantial damage."[44]

On August 20, 2017, protestors singing "We Shall Overcome" draped Silent Sam in black,[45] as had just been proposed for the Charlottesville statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, whose removal, at least for the moment, had recently been blocked (see Removal of Confederate monuments and memorials#Virginia).

On August 21 Chancellor Folt issued a message urging students not to attend the rally scheduled for the next day, "considering the potential for a highly charged atmosphere and the very real possibility for confrontation with outside groups."[46] The rally was "being organized by groups not associated with the university... If we had the ability to immediately move the statue we would."[41]

The same day, UNC chancellor Carol Folt, UNC president Margaret Spellings, UNC board-of-governors chairman Lou Bissette, and UNC trustee chairman Haywood Cochrane wrote to Governor Roy Cooper,[47] warning of "significant safety and security threats"[48][49] concerning Silent Sam: "it is only a matter of time before an attempt is made to pull down Silent Sam in much the same manner we saw in Durham ... An attempt may occur at any time."[50] They also asked the Governor to convene the North Carolina Historical Commission "to take up the question of what to do with the statue,"[51][46] although "the panel has little leeway to remove the statue permanently."[52] The danger was not just the physical risks of taking such a heavy object off a pedestal, it was the probable confrontations between pro- and anti-Confederate demonstrators from outside the University. Folt stated that if UNC could remove the statue it would, but was prohibited by SL 2015–170.[53][54][55] Cooper responded to Spellings, saying UNC could remove the statue if there was "a real risk to public safety," but did not himself say that the risk existed.[54][46] Folt replied that despite the governor's advice, the university did not think it could say it was a "risk to public safety" in the sense intended by the 2015 law,[49][56] which refers to "a building inspector or similar official" making that determination, "where the statue itself poses a physical hazard."[52] As put on a separate occasion, "UNC ... doesn't agree that it's received the green light by anyone with authority to relocate the statue."[57]

The UNC Board of Governors publicly criticized Folt for her request of the Governor, saing that the request ”was a 'wholly unacceptable' unilateral decision by Spellings and Bissette". They said the letter to the governor should have been reviewed and approved by the entire board, instead of only the board's committee chairs. They said they would not have given their approval to send the letter to Cooper.... "The letter exuded a weakness and hand wringing that does not accurately reflect the Board's opinion about how the potential of campus unrest should be treated", said the letter, which was dated August 22.[51]

The UNC Board of Trustees then released a statement supporting Folt, saying: "Above all, regardless of the circumstance, the chancellor has a responsibility to the people of North Carolina to uphold all state laws. With this new law, it is relatively easy for many individuals to speculate about its meaning or offer possible loopholes as ways to operate around the law. It would be unwise and imprudent for the University to take any action regarding the monument without additional legal clarity, and we would expect no less from our chancellor."[57]

On August 22, 2017, at the beginning of the school year, a "Rally for Removal of Silent Sam", announced on a poster describing the day as "the first day of Silent Sam's last semester", attracted about 800 people.[46][58] Thousands signed a petition to remove it.[54] Chanting "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. This racist statue has got to go" and "Tear it down", protestors marched to the official residence of University President Margaret Spellings, briefly blocking traffic on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill's main street, which adjoins the oldest part of the campus, where Silent Sam was located. The statue was surrounded by police in riot gear.<ref[41]

On September 6, 2017, demonstrators chanted and made noise with drums, pots and pans, birthday party horns, and "anything they could get their hands on" in front of South Building, where Chancellor Folt's office is. Their stated intent was "disrupt[ing] business as usual", and they unusuccessfully asked Chancellor Folt to listen to their reasons why they felt Silent Sam should be removed.[52][59]

In November, 2017, Maya Little, graduate student in history and leader of Silent Sam protests during 2017–2018, posted documentation of the University's Police Department having used an undercover officer to gather information on the protestors.[60]

In late February, 2018, an email was sent anonymously to Chancellor Folt, stating it was from 17 "senior faculty", "all Full Professors and Endowed Chaired [sic] Professors", who vowed "to move the statue themselves if the Chancellor has not done so by March 1st at midnight", saying they did not fear arrest. They claimed to be from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the School of Law, and quoted Edmund Burke: "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing". They said they would release the email to the Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper, if she did not reply first. On February 25 a University spokesperson confirmed the letter had been received.[61] On the same day the email, accompanied by a press release, was sent to the Daily Tar Heel, which published them.[62] The paper said it had met with a representative from the group, "who is a senior faculty member at UNC". In a statement on February 27, "the group said they received word...that Folt is preparing to ask Gov. Roy Cooper to petition the North Carolina Historical Commission for an urgent ruling to relocate Silent Sam", and "as a sign of good faith, understanding that the Chancellor is now seeking the quick removal of Silent Sam, we shall stand down for the present". Asked if Folt reached out or is planning to reach out to Cooper in response to the letter, Joanne Peters Denny, a UNC spokesperson, said these conversations were not happening: "We don't make our policy decisions based on threats from unauthenticated, anonymous groups".[63]

On April 30, 2018, Maya Little defaced the statue with a mixture of red ink and her own blood. She described her action "an act of civil disobedience and an effort to provide context of the statue's white supremacist beginnings". The act was publicized in advance and news media and the UNC Police were present.[64] as She was arrested and charged with defacing a public statue, with a court date of August 20. She was also charged with a UNC Honor Code violation. The statue was cleaned within minutes.[65]

In July, 2018, Silent Sam, covered by a red X and the words "North Carolina needs a monumental change", was depicted in Raleigh on two identical billboards, on Blount Street near Hoke Street and on North Raleigh Boulevard near the intersection with Yonkers Road. They were paid for by the Make It Right Project, part of the Independent Media Institute, which is working to have Silent Sam and nine other Confederate monuments removed. The stated audience the billboards were intended to reach — thus the Raleigh locations — were the members of the North Carolina Historical Commission.[66][12]

In a press release dated August 15, the North Carolina Historical Commission stated that it "has received requests from private individuals to relocate the 'Silent Sam' monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but has not received a petition from the university, the UNC system, or its governing body, the Board of Governors."[67]

UNC had begun developing alternate signs and an interactive tour meant to place Silent Sam in context and tell the "true" history of UNC.[53] From July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018, UNC spent $390,000 on security for the monument.[42] Of that, $3,000 was for cleaning the monument. The $387,000 remainder was spent on law enforcement personnel costs.[49] Silent Sam was under 24-hour video surveillance via a monitor in the campus Police Department.[43][65]

Toppling, 2018

Police cordoned off the pedestal
Silent Sam, center, draped in a black cloth
Crowds gathered around the pedestal after Silent Sam was toppled
The base of Silent Sam on the night of August 20, 2018

The 2018–2019 school year began with the topping of Silent Sam. As put by Chancellor Folt and Harry Smith, chair of the UNC Board of Governors, this was "unlike any previous event on our campus".[68]

On the night of August 20, 2018, the day before the 2018–19 school year began, another "Remove Silent Sam" rally was held.[13] A protest event with speakers began at 7 p.m., in opposition to white supremacism and to support doctoral student Maya Little who, in April 2018, splashed red ink mixed with her own blood on the statue,[69][70] and whose first court date was August 20.[65] (The evening protest was originally billed as an event to support Little.[71]) Protestors marched down and briefly blocked Franklin Street, Chapel Hill's main downtown street.[72] In contrast with the 2017 rally, police stayed in the background.[42]

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said afterwards that "We've never had protests that were quite as emotional, intense, or as large."[73]

In a speech at the protest, Little said, "It's time to tear down Silent Sam. It's time to tear down UNC's institutional white supremacy".[69][74] Large signs, saying, among other things, "The whole world is watching", "Which side are you on?", and "For a world without white supremacy" were held around the monument to block the view while heavy ropes were tied to it.[69]

At 9:20 p.m., Silent Sam was felled;[72][75][76] the crowd cheered.[69] "People [were] screaming and jumping in disbelief."[3] A newscaster on the scene described the mood as "jubilation".[72] Holding signs and chanting "stand up, fight back" and "This is what democracy looks like", some protesters stomped on the statue and tried to cover it with dirt. Police, who cordoned off the area around the pedestal, arrested one person who concealed their face in the public protest.[72][75] Some police are reported to have been smiling.[77] Crowds remained around the base, and the Associated Press reported that students were drawn to see it as the news of the toppling spread.[76] Later that night, campus staff loaded the statue, which did not seem to be seriously damaged,[77] onto a flat-bed dump truck and removed it from the site.[69]


Various rallies and demonstrations have been taking place at the monument's site, McCorkle Place, and in the town of Chapel Hill. Typically on a Saturday, the University has made several announcements to request people not to come to these events for safety reasons. These events have resulted in the arrest of various assailants from assault, resisting arrest and inciting a public disturbance.[78][79][80]

University response

UNC issued a statement on Twitter which read, "Last night's actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate the no one was injured. The police are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage".[74] The chair of the UNC board of governors, Harry Smith, said on August 22 that the board would "hire an outside firm to look into university and police actions at the protest where Silent Sam was toppled", adding that Chancellor Folt had not herself ordered police to take a "hands-off" approach.[77]

Silent Sam is being kept in an undisclosed location for safety concerns.[14] The chancellor has not revealed whether the statue will be restored in McCorkle Place.[53]


As of September 7, 2018, only one person has been charged with participating in the toppling.[81] Nineteen other people have been arrested on charges of misdemeanor riot, misdemeanor defacing of a public monument, causing damage to property, causing a public disturbance, defacing a public building, concealing one's face, resisting arrest, simple assault, and affray (fighting).[82]


Critics of the toppling

The pedestal remains in McCorkle Place without the Silent Sam statue.
  • Newspapers
    • Editorial in the Wilson Times: "When demonstrators pulled Silent Sam from his perch Monday night, the University of North Carolina joined an ignoble list of colleges where peaceful protest gives way to lawlessness and mob rule."[83] "North Carolina...has become a focal point in the debate over what should be done with markers honoring the Confederacy."[84]
  • Legislators
    • State Representative Bob Steinburg: "It is absolutely inexcusable and those responsible, including security who stood by and let it happen, need to be prosecuted, no excuses!! ... Whoever was on that security detail that allowed this to take place and are seen in this video and can be identified ... need to lose their jobs."[77]
    • State Representative Larry Pittman: "Chaos will be the result if nothing is done.... If we don’t stand up and put a stop to this mob rule, it could lead to an actual civil war". He mentioned punishing the University through funding cuts.[85]
    • Senate leader Phil Berger: "Many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won't heal those wounds. Only a civil society that adheres to the rule of law can heal these wounds and politicians – from the Governor down to the local District Attorney – must start that process by ending the deceitful mischaracterization of violent riots as 'rallies' and reestablishing the rule of law in each of our state's cities and counties."[86]
    • House Speaker Tim Moore: "There is no place for the destruction of property on our college campuses or in any North Carolina community; the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted by public safety officials to make clear that mob rule and acts of violence will not be tolerated in our state."[86]
  • UNC Board of Governors and President
    • Former State Senator Thom Goolsby, a member of the Board of Governors: "NC State law is CLEAR. Silent Sam MUST be reinstalled."[77]
    • A joint statement from UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith and UNC President Margaret Spellings: "The actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible. We are a nation of laws — and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated."[86]
  • Governor and former Governor
    • Statement from Governor Roy Cooper's office: "Governor Cooper has been in contact with local law enforcement and UNC officials regarding tonight's rally and appreciates their efforts to keep people safe. The Governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities."[87] Cooper has publicly stated his support for removal of Confederate monuments.[88] The decision of the North Carolina Historical Commission not to remove three Confederate monuments at the state capitol, which removal Cooper had sought, by coincidence came two days after Silent Sam was toppled.[89]
    • Former Governor Pat McCrory, in an August 21 interview, labeled the toppling as mob rule and questioned whether people will begin to call for the destruction of the Washington Monument or Jefferson Memorial, since George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. "Do you think these left-wing anarchists are going to end with Silent Sam?" McCrory said. At another stage in the interview, he compared the actions of the protesters to that of the Nazis who tore down statues and burned books.[90]
  • Polling: Harper Polling surveyed 500 North Carolina "likely voters" between September 4 and September 7, 2018. 70% disapproved of the toppling, 22% approved, and 9% were unsure or declined to answer. 39% said they favor removing Confederate monuments legally, and 50% were opposed. Results broke along age and party lines.[91]

Supporters of the toppling

  • Newspapers
    • The Editorial Board of the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina's largest newspaper, saw the toppling of the statue as an act of civil disobedience, "a tradition that goes back at least to Henry David Thoreau, who famously argued that it is the citizen's duty not to acquiesce and allow the government to perpetrate injustice." The toppling of the statue is compared to Rosa Parks, who broke the law by refusing to give up her bus seat, the Greensboro four, and the Boston Tea Party. The Observer says the action was not "mob rule": "Mob rule was what happened at Little Rock Central High School in 1957 when nine black students, even armed with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, were turned back by an angry and violent white mob."[86]
    • Editorial Board of the Winston-Salem Journal: "Silent Sam had to go.... Their cause was just, if not their methods. And it is easy to understand their mounting frustration and anger.... Blame 'mob rule' if you will. But it was poor leadership in Chapel Hill and Raleigh that ultimately led to Monday night."[92]
    • Editorial Board of the Fayetteville Observer: ”The most surprising thing about the toppling of “Silent Sam” on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus Tuesday night was that it took so long to happen.... And as cities and states across the South have seen frequent protests and have wrestled with decisions about the nature, meaning and location of their many monuments to the Civil War and the soldiers who fought in it, North Carolina’s official position has been to do nothing.... It’s clear that Silent Sam was meant to be a reminder to blacks of the doctrine of white supremacy that was prevalent then and is still too much with us today."[93] Myron Pitts, staff writer at the Fayetteville Observer, said in the newspaper "It was past time to remove UNC's Silent Sam. State and university officials' lack of leadership led to last week’s events."[94]
    • Editorial Board of the Washington Post: "It's not a surprise that citizens would take matters into their own hands when arbitrary curbs had been placed on local democracy."[95]
  • UNC students
    • The UNC undergraduate student government executive branch posted a letter to all students, saying "the African-American activists had 'courage and resilience' and had 'corrected a moral and historical wrong that needed to be righted if we were ever to move forward as a university.'"[96]
  • UNC faculty
    • Groups
      • 42 UNC faculty members signed a letter published in The News & Observer on August 23 claiming UNC administration "dodged" the Silent Sam issue, leading to "not the most desirable" situation but one that had to come nonetheless. "The time is now for the university administration to show leadership, not bureaucratic obfuscation," the letter reads. "Show us that you and the university do indeed stand for Lux et Libertas, not sustaining and enforcing the symbols of human cruelty."[97] The letter quoted John F. Kennedy: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable."[53][98]
      • 29 faculty members in the Department of History: "Civil disobedience, particularly among students, has a long and storied history in the United States, especially in the American South. The hyperbolic characterization of Silent Sam's toppling as 'lawlessness' and 'mob action' by Chancellor Folt and UNC System leaders demonstrates a purposeful, obdurate disregard for historical and social context."[97]
      • The University of North Carolina's Center for the Study of the American South: "UNC's leadership refuses to recognize that their own inaction put our community in danger. We acknowledge the constraints they face but we urge them to stand on the right side of history and join us in rejecting simplistic interpretations of last night's actions as vandalism. Silent Sam was violence. Protestors who removed it sought to reorient our future toward non-violence."[97]
    • Individuals
      • Joseph T. Glatthaar, Stephenson Distinguished Professor of American Civil War Studies, University of North Carolina: "I understand that many people want to honor the sacrifices and efforts of their ancestors, but Silent Sam represented the worst aspects and deeds of those ancestors.... The University and the state should offer magnanimous terms to those students and allow them to return to school unpunished."[99]
      • Barbara Rimer, Dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a public letter, "suggested a monument to a person who promoted peace, equity or prevention, instead of a return to Silent Sam."[100] "An ever-potent symbol of a past we said we aimed to transcend, the statue sent a powerful, contradictory message. In its silence, it spoke loudly. It's no wonder that, as other states sought to move beyond the past by removing statues, our inability to do so caused wounds to fester until the pain became unbearable. It is not surprising that it happened Monday night. It is only surprising that it did not happen sooner."[101]
  • Scholars (see also Glatthaar, above)
    • In an op-ed in the New York Times, scholars of slavery Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts, authors of Denmark Vesey's Garden. Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy (2018),[102] professors of history at California State University, Fresno, with Ph.D.s in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: "We once believed that Confederate statues should be left up but also placed in historical context.... Over time, however, we lost our enthusiasm for this approach.... The white supremacist intent of these monuments, in other words, is not a relic of the past.... The prominence of the memorials shows how white Southerners etched racism into the earth with impunity." Their recommendation: leaving the "empty pedestal — shorn all original images and inscriptions — eliminates the offending tribute while still preserving a record of what these communities did and where they did it.... The most effective way to commemorate the rise and fall of white supremacist monument-building is to preserve unoccupied pedestals as the ruins that they are — broken tributes to a morally bankrupt cause."[103]
    • Karen Cox, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (2003): "People seem to be at their wit's end. When people feel they're not being heard, when people don't have a place at the table, then this is the result."[3]
    • Adam Domby, historian of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the American South, assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston,[104] with a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: "I think ultimately what really did this (toppling) is the Heritage laws were really undemocratic.... They're taking away any recourse for communities who want to remove a monument."[105] It was Domby who unearthed the Carr speech (see above).
  • Legislators
    • In a joint statement, State Senator Valerie Foushee, Representative Verla Insko, and Representative Graig R. Meyer said the removal of UNC's Confederate statue was long overdue. "It was past time for Silent Sam to be moved from a place of honor on the campus of the University of the People. It is unfortunate that state legislators chose not to hear and pass the bill we filed earlier this year to move the monument to an indoor site where it would stand as a reminder of the bitter racial struggle that continues to burden our country.[90]
    • U.S. Representative David Price: "It should not have taken an act of civil disobedience to remove this monument to hate. We should not condone actions that threaten public health or safety but neither should politicians in Raleigh prevent local communities from taking action through peaceful means."[97]
  • Religious leaders
    • Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church: "Racism is still not eradicated in this day. We, members of a Chapel Hill faith community, seek to follow a man named Jesus who, at every turn, identified with the outcasts and spoke truth to power. He did not wait until a convenient time to speak or act. We believe it was time to act in ridding the UNC campus of a very public Silent Sam.... We support placing a placard in place of the statue, reminding us of what once stood there and what it stood for."[106]

Disposition of the statue

UNC-CH has until November 15, 2018, to come up with a plan on what to do with the toppled statue.[15] The possibilities are:

  • Replace it on its pedestal, on McCorkle Place.
  • Move it to another location on the campus.
  • Remove it from the campus altogether.

The latter two possibilities would bring another problem: what to do with the pedestal.

A number of people or groups have weighed in publicly on the issue.

  • No one has made a public statement saying that the statue should be reerected in the same location. Former State Senator Thom Goolsby, a member of the Board of Governors, has said that the statue "MUST be reinstalled",[77] but he did not say "in the same place" or "on its pedestal". Former Governer Pat McCrory, quoted above, implies that he favors the original location, but does not say so explicitly.
  • Many support moving it to another location on the campus.
    • This is the position of Chancellor Folk.[107]
    • On September 4, 2018, a letter from 450 UNC faculty members, supporting Folt's preference for relocating the statue, was sent to the Board of Governors, Board of Trustees, and key administrators. "The civic, economic, emotional, and cultural well-being of our community, as well as the university’s educational mission, will suffer continued damage by the presence of the monument on McCorkle Place.”[107]
    • On September 4, 2018, 8 alumni co-chairs of a fundraising committee, most former members of the Trustees or the Board of Visitors, sent a letter to the Board of Trustees: This is an "increasingly dangerous situation impacting our students and faculty and threatening to tarnish the reputation of our nation’s first public university, as well as the State of North Carolina.... Now that Silent Sam is down, we are united in agreeing that it should not return to its former location."[107]
    • The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership also called for the permanent relocation of Silent Sam, saying the continued protests around the monument are hurting business and threatening the safety of the town.
    • H. Spencer Everett, Jr., UNC '60: Proposes relocating the statue, and suggests considering the lobby of the main library, Wilson Library. (The Administrative Board of the Library responded immediately that they did not want it, since probable further protestors would be disruptive at best and a potential threat to the safety of its collections.[108]) "The rule of law must be respected and enforced. To do otherwise will only encourage more unlawful protests and anarchy. The history of student involvement in the Civil War, the 'War of Northern Aggression,' should be highlighted. Student soldiers (like Sam) did not fight to preserve slavery – they fought to protest the unlawful invasion of their homeland. It is educators' responsibility to reveal and publicize historical truth."[109]
    • At the end of August, "a letter signed by 37 faith leaders said that returning the statue to its previous location would further the goal of those who placed it there in 1913 in the Jim Crow era, 'venerating white supremacy, and denigrating people of color'."[107]
  • 60 Black faculty members asked the university "to permanently remove the Confederate statue and its pedestal". "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.... To reinstall the Confederate monument to any location on UNC's campus is to herald for the nation and for the world that UNC is not a welcoming place for black people."[110]

Archival material

In response to a August 21 request from WRAL-TV, on September 12 the UNC-CH administration released 800 pages of emails and texts relevant to the toppling.[71]


  1. ^ $7,500 in 1913 had roughly the same purchasing power as $193,500 in 2018.[22]
  2. ^ a b The inscriptions are in all capital letters but are rendered here in sentence case for ease of reading.
  3. ^ "Duty is the sublimest word in the English language" is a quote from a letter once believed to have been written by Robert E. Lee, but revealed in 1914 to have been a forgery.[29]


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  3. ^ a b c d e f g Farzan, Antonia Noori (August 21, 2018). "'Silent Sam': A racist Jim Crow-era speech inspired UNC students to topple a Confederate monument on campus". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 21, 2018. 
  4. ^ Green, Hilary N. "Transcription: Julian Carr's Speech at the Dedication of Silent Sam". University of Alabama. 
  5. ^ Johnson, Kimberly (August 24, 2018). "'Silent Sam' Confederate Statue To Be Reinstalled: UNC Official". Charlotte Patch. 
  6. ^ "Governor Craig's Address" (PDF). Raleigh News and Observer. 3 June 1913 – via University Archives at UNC Chapel Hill. 
  7. ^ Venable, Frances P. "Folder 128: Speeches and Essays on Education: Scan 1". Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  8. ^ Venable, Frances P. "Folder 128: Speeches and Essays on Education: Scan 2". Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  9. ^ "[Mary Lyde Williams' speech at the dedication of Confederate Monument]" (PDF). Morning Star. Wilmington, NC. 15 June 1913. 
  10. ^ a b "FADELESS GLORY OF BRAVE YOUNG BLOOD: Monument to University's Soldier Sons Unveiled at Chapel Hill. LOVE'S GIFT TO VALOR: Women of State Raise Statue to Youthful Chivalry. Governor Pays Tribute Carolina Manhood". Charlotte Observer. Charlotte, NC. June 3, 1913. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 28 August 2018 – via GenealogyBank. 
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  38. ^ "An act to ensure respectful treatment of the American flag and the North Carolina flag by state agencies and other political subdivisions of the state; to establish the Division of Veterans Affairs as the clearinghouse for the disposal of worn, tattered, and damaged flags; to provide for the protection of monuments and memorials commemorating events, persons, and military service in North Carolina history; and to transfer custody of certain historic documents in the possession of the Office of the Secretary of State to the Department of Cultural Resources and to facilitate public opportunity to view these documents". SL 2015-170, Act of 23 July 2015 (PDF). 
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Further reading

External links