Orange County

What's in a name? A lot for Carrboro when it comes to namesake Julian Carr.

The town of Carrboro may erect a plaque acknowledging namesake Julian Carr's racist remarks at the dedication of the Confederate monument known as "Silent Sam" on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
The town of Carrboro may erect a plaque acknowledging namesake Julian Carr's racist remarks at the dedication of the Confederate monument known as "Silent Sam" on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

Boiling down the complicated relationship between Carrboro and town namesake Julian Carr to a hundred words will require a lot of thought.

Alderwoman Jacquie Gist wants to try.

"Carrboro is named after a racist, and that's embarrassing," she said.

Carr's legacy as a textile mill baron with a racist history stands in stark contrast to the progressive nature of present-day Carrboro.

He gave a notorious speech during the 1913 dedication of the Confederate monument known as "Silent Sam" at UNC-Chapel Hill, during which he described horsewhipping a "negro wench" who he said had insulted a white woman.

At the Board of Aldermen's last meeting, members discussed placing a plaque in town that recognizes Carr's remarks.

Gist said a plaque would allow the town to acknowledge the truth about Carr publicly. She said it was important to have input from the community when deciding what it says.

"The plaque can't have a million words on it," Gist said. "A hundred words acknowledging who we got our name from and that he made this horrific speech at the unveiling of Silent Sam, which is located just down the road. Hopefully, it'll be gone sometime soon.

"I think this is the community's truth, and it needs to be articulated by the community."

Controversy about Silent Sam flared up again last week when a protest splashed it with blood and red ink. Chancellor Carol Folt has said the university does not have legal authority under state law to move the statue.

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Gist said the plaque would also be a way for the town to "own" its past because changing Carrboro's name is not a realistic option.

Alderman Damon Seils agreed, noting the board's resolution after the deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

"I think this ties in really well with what we did with our resolution after the Charlottesville incident and our call to do some truth telling and acknowledging our own history in our history of transforming," Seils said.

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Gist said she was inspired to bring this idea forward after seeing similar plaques in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

"There were plaques there that showed times weren't good for all people during the past" Gist said.

No timetable was set for the plaque to be placed, but research will begin in June.





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