Letters to the Editor

In the aftermath of Silent Sam toppling, conversation continues

Local members of the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed flowers Saturday morning on the base that once held the Silent Sam statue at UNC-Chapel Hill. The statue was toppled on Aug. 20.
Local members of the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed flowers Saturday morning on the base that once held the Silent Sam statue at UNC-Chapel Hill. The statue was toppled on Aug. 20. Raleigh

Cause vs. courage

The letters to newspapers and other expressions of opinion attempting to justify and rationalize the existence of statues honoring and commemorating Confederate soldiers often seem to conflate the courage and bravery of the defenders of the Confederacy with the actual cause for which they were fighting, namely, maintaining the institution of slavery, along with their right to withdraw from the union.

Individually these soldiers may have been “valiant,” “the embodiment of manhood” and “resolved,” but one cannot escape the fact that their primary goal was to protect their right to enslave people.

Consider for a moment the time when Allied Forces landed on the beach at Normandy. They suffered enormous casualties from staunchly devoted Nazi soldiers defending the Third Riech. But no matter how willing they were to die for “the cause,” the cause itself was abhorrent and disgraceful, as was slavery. Erecting statues in order to praise the Nazi cause would be as disgusting.

Relegating Confederate statues to a museum might be a reasonable compromise, as is the building of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem: To recognize and preserve relics of a blight on history so as always to remember it, but not to embrace it.

Steve Bernholz

Chapel Hill

Preserving history

Regarding “Profs ignore Duke’s past to shun Carr” (Sept. 2): I don’t believe that statues, building names, or even town names tell us much about history. They do indicate, who in the past, we held in reverence and esteem. Those feelings change as our society grows and matures. I don’t believe we should hold racists, bigots, and slavery in esteem. Changing a name, reflects a change in our society.

Carr is a symbol of his time, and that time is past. Naming a building at an academic institution has more to do with money than it does history. Duke Historians are well aware of Carr’s accomplishments and his racism. They have simply decided he should not be the symbol of their department.

If people are so concerned with history disappearing, they should invest in our schools. Go to a lecture series at the NC History Museum. Take a history class, and participate in nuanced arguments. Most importantly, be a voice, and give to the humanities. This will help to preserve history far more than keeping a building name.

Susan Book

Cary

‘Embarrassment’

Regarding “Silent Sam threatens reputation, says UNC fundraisers” (Sept. 7): Silent Sam has been there for over 100 years. There was never a problem with fundraising before.

It’s certainly not Sam that’s a threat to the reputation of UNC, or what’s left of it. That falls squarely on the bunch of protesters that have taken over the campus, aided and abetted by the administration, campus police and Chapel Hill police.

This destruction of public property should have never been allowed to happen and I have serious doubts anyone will ever be punished for it. UNC faculty participants should be fired or at least suspended, and any students should be expelled or suspended.

UNC has become an embarrassment. You reap what you sow.

Cecelia Davis

Garner

Add plaque

As long as Silent Sam remains a Confederate monument it will be a lightning rod for protests. The Confederates basically started the Civil War, and Silent Sam represents all of what was wrong with Confederate views.

The Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to honor the UNC alumni who fought and died in the Civil War. Hence; if it is rededicated as a memorial to all those who served and died in the Civil War, we have a memorial that we can all agree is appropriate.

A plaque that reads “On this date, this statue is re-dedicated as a remembrance to all who served in the Civil War and the 600,000 who died to abolish slavery. A reunited America did not send the slaves back to Africa but gave them citizenship” should be added to the pedestal on which Silent Sam stands.

This action, along with a UNC website that allows questions and discussion about the Civil War along with postings from faculty and any authority on the subject should provide a means for students to better understand all aspects of the Civil War, and would be a great means of acquiring knowledge not in the curriculum of UNC.

Joseph J. Moyer

Raleigh

‘Incorrect picture’

Rob Christensen’s column “Profs ignore Duke’s past to shun Carr” (Sept. 2) painted an incorrect picture of how Duke University is proceeding to consider renaming the Carr Building.

Christensen said it was ironic that historians would consider renaming a building, but history has never been static. We learn more, understand more and consider events from different perspectives over time. There is a danger of unreflectively and hastily condemning those of the past using current standards, as Christensen suggests Duke is doing.

“While the debate over historic names and monuments is full of anger and fury, what is often missing is any context or nuance, or a sense that things are more complex than today’s sloganeering,” he wrote. What Duke University is doing is the antithesis of this.

The deliberations that lead to President Vince Price leaving the niche at the front of the Duke Chapel vacant after the statue of Robert E. Lee was removed in August 2017, took one year to complete. The Duke History Department’s proposal to rename the Carr Building is a thoroughly researched, carefully argued document that represents the opposite of forgetting history – it fully contextualizes Julian Carr’s life, his many areas of success and generosity, including to Duke, as well as an itemization of the reasons why my colleagues believe it is time to remove his name from the building.

Any renaming would be the start of a new conversation, not the erasure of the past. Christensen’s piece, written even before the Duke History Department’s renaming proposal had been released, ridicules the caricature of a process that most certainly is not underway at Duke.

Donald H. Taylor, Jr. Ph.D.

Professor of Public Policy

Chair, Academic Council

Duke University

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