UNC should drop the charges against Silent Sam protester, says descendant of Julian Carr

A woman who says she is a descendant of Julian Carr has sent a letter to UNC-Chapel Hill leaders urging them to drop the criminal charges and Honor Court inquiry against Maya Little, who poured blood and paint on the Silent Sam Confederate statue last spring.

Meg Yarnell, 47, says she is the great-great-great granddaughter of Carr, who spoke during a dedication ceremony for Silent Sam in June 1913.

Considering the legacy of Carr, who “infamously dedicated the statue by celebrating the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race and the time that he ‘whipped a negro wench until her skirt hung in shreds,’” Yarnell wrote, “I am grateful for what Maya did to contextualize this statue and advance the cause for its removal.”

On April 30, Little threw a mixture of ink and blood on the statue, which protesters toppled four months later.

Little appeared in court Monday on a misdemeanor charge of defacing a public statue or monument. She also faces UNC Honor Court charges.

Carr loved his family and parts of the community, Yarnell wrote, but she said we must recognize that he was “a white supremacist whose vitriolic speech and actions resulted in the pain and suffering of many.”

Julian Carr
Julian S. Carr Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection at UNC

“As a white person, and descendant of Julian Carr, I cannot remain silent. Our silence as white people is complicity with white supremacy and has created a very painful world,” she wrote. “It is a horrifying necessity to confront the reality that my ancestors participated in such shameful things, and I want to express my sorrow and deepest apologies for the profound suffering, trauma and inequality caused by the actions of my ancestors, including Julian Carr.”

In an interview with The News & Observer, Yarnell, a clinical social worker in California, said she is related to Carr on her mother’s side of the family.

She said she wanted to support Little after she read about Little’s actions and later the toppling of Silent Sam. After failed attempts to contact Little personally, Yarnell contacted organizers in the Move Silent Sam group and asked how she could support the movement. Organizers suggested she write a letter, Yarnell said.

Carr’s involvement in the Confederate Army and his dedication speech are only one part of the story, Yarnell said.

“There’s a lot more to him, which has been written about and documented. This is another piece of it that’s important for us to acknowledge.”

At the request of Move Silent Sam organizers, a genealogy professor at UNC verified Yarnell’s lineage, she said.

During a court break Monday, Little said the letter from Yarnell made her “very happy.”

Little said she is willing to work with anyone who wants to fight white supremacy.

She also pointed out that Carr received an honorary degree from the university, which also named a building after him.

A building on Duke University’s campus also bears Carr’s name. Duke’s history department and 143 Duke alumni are petitioning the Board of Trustees to rename the Carr Building after Raymond Gavins, the history department’s first African-American on faculty.

Separately, more than 6,600 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for UNC Honor Court charges to be dropped against Little.

Faculty members, students and others have also called for charges to be dropped.

“Little’s point in turning Silent Sam red, she said, was to commemorate the blood that ran under the skin of those African-Americans and to remind people that a statue celebrating the Confederacy continues to cause harm today,” The News & Observer reported in May. “It was meant to be intimidating, she said, and it has told generations of African-Americans teaching and studying at the school that they are inferior.”

Little, 26, is doctoral student in UNC’s history department. Little has been an organizer with the Move Silent Sam group for more than a year.

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