Where will Silent Sam go? UNC trustees expected to announce decision.

The rise and fall of Silent Sam

Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.
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Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.

UNC’s Board of Trustees are expected Monday to recommend a new home for Silent Sam, the Confederate monument that stood on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus for 105 years until August, when protestors yanked it down.

The trustees have called a special meeting at 8 a.m. Monday at the Carolina Inn, according to a meeting notice.

While an agenda hasn’t been made public, they likely will discuss Silent Sam, the 8-foot bronze statue erected in 1913 as a memorial for UNC students who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. A meeting notice says some of the business might be authorized by the Open Meetings Law to be conducted in closed sesssion.

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The board had a Dec. 3 deadline to make a formal proposal to UNC’s Board of Governors, which will have the final say over the statue’s fate.

The Board of Governors has said they want to study the proposal before its Dec. 14 meeting.

The trustees’ original deadline was Nov. 15, but an extension for more research was requested.

The monument has been controversial for years, but politicians and university leaders left it in place. After the statue was removed from its pedestal on Aug. 20, the trustees have discussed where it should be located; many say it shouldn’t be resurrected on campus.

Chancellor Carol Folt said in late August that it shouldn’t be returned to its original locaiotn on McCorkle Place, not far from Franklin Street.

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While supporters say “Sam” stands as a reminder of North Carolina’s history and honors Tar Heels who died at war, critics say it perpetuates racism and could sow more discord if returned to campus.

At the statue’s dedication ceremony in 1913, businessman Julian Carr spoke about the war’s importance in preserving the “Anglo Saxon race.” According to a transcript of his speech, Carr then bragged to the crowd about assaulting a black woman.

“One hundred yards from where we stand, less than 90 days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned 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, and for 30 nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shotgun under my head.”

Carr went on to become an influential figure whom the town of Carrboro is named after, but whose white supremacist views have gained the spotlight in recent years.

Protesters toppled Silent Sam, the Confederate statue on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, on Monday after a demonstration in support of a graduate student who faces criminal and honor court charges for throwing red ink and blood on the statue in April.

Saturday, Duke University announced that it plans to remove Carr’s name from one of its classroom buildings.

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Some trustees told The News & Observer in November that they are exploring the logistics, cost and security of options for the statue and are consulting with security professionals.

“There’s nothing more important than keeping our campus safe,” Haywood Cochrane, chairman of the trustees, said in an interview, according to a previous News & Observer story.

As for UNC, a statement issued in September by African-American faculty said: “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.”

Later, the UNC Faculty Council voted on a resolution saying the statue should permanently be removed from the UNC campus.

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Among the most ardent supporters of reinstating “Sam” are members of the N.C. Son’s of Confederate Veterans. Frank Powell, a spokesman for the group, told The News & Observer in August that “the rule of law states it must be put back, and that’s our position.”

A 2015 law prevents state agencies from removing, relocating or altering monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission, the N&O has previously reported.

Gov. Roy Cooper, for his part, has said there’s a loophole in state law that would allow the university to remove Silent Sam if there are public safety concerns.

Paul “Andy” Specht reports on North Carolina leaders and state politics for The News & Observer and PolitiFact. Specht previously covered Raleigh City Hall and town governments around the Triangle. He’s a Raleigh native who graduated from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. Contact him at aspecht@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4870.
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