WHAT IS SILENT SAM?
Silent Sam is a Confederate monument located on the north campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in McCorkle Place, facing north toward Franklin Street. Gifted by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909, it was first erected in 1913. It was placed to honor the 1,000 UNC students and faculty who fought in the Civil War.
WHY ARE PEOPLE UPSET?
Those against the statue believe it has racist connotations and represents slavery. Julian Carr, a North Carolina industrialist, white supremacist and the name sake for Carrboro spoke at the dedication for Silent Sam back in 1913.
People that are against Silent Sam frequently quote a portion of that speech in explaining why they want the statue removed: “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 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.”
In 2015, Shannon Brien, a UNC student told us during a rally, “It was clearly built to frighten black people and black students on this campus and it does not create a welcoming environment,” said Shannon Brien.
An NC State student, Leah Block said, “It can most definitely make black students feel threatened and unsafe with this monument of somebody who defended slavery.”
SOME PEOPLE SUPPORT THE MONUMENT
Supporters of the monument believe that it honors the UNC alumni who fought in the Civil War and it's a symbol of heritage.
Harry Smith, a Silent Sam supporter told Spectrum News in 2015, “It's just to honor the deaths of the students that were here and the alumni. I believe there was 321 alumni that died in the Civil War, and that's what the statue is all about,” said Harry Smith.
“I do believe a government that removes a historical monument of any sort is only going to bring bad things,” said Bradley Dixon, a Silent Sam supporter.
TIMELINE OF RECENT EVENTS:
December 2014 – Silent Sam vandalized
A rope was left at Silent Sam’s feet on the statue and a plastic bag was put over the statue’s head.
January 2015 – Calls to change name of Saunders Hall, add plaque to Silent Sam
Students began to rally and protest for UNC to change the name of Saunders Hall, named after NC Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders, who was a UNC graduate and trustee. They also asked for a new plaque on Silent Sam, explaining its history.
May 2015 –Saunders Hall renamed to Carolina Hall
The UNC Board of Trustees voted 10-3 to change the name of Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall. The words were removed the following August.
July 2015 – Silent Sam vandalized again
The words “murderer” and “Black Lives Matter” were spray painted on Silent Sam.
August 2015 – Silent Sam vandalized again
“Who is Sandra Bland?” was spray painted on Silent Sam as well as other locations. Bland was found hanging in a jail cell in Texas, sparking protests around her arrest and death.
September 2015 – Silent Sam vandalized again
A confederate bandana was placed around the eyes of the statue.
October/November 2015 – More Rallies, Calls
Multiple rallies are held, and now instead of calling for the statue to be contextualized, students, faculty and community members are calling for the statue to be removed completely.
There was also a rally where supporters who want to preserve the monument crowded UNC's campus. Hundreds of Black Lives Matter supporters counter-protested.
April 2017 – Silent Sam vandalized again
The statue is vandalized with “Love is understanding why others hate,” “Love > Hate” and “BLM.”
August 2017 – Charlottesville incident
During a counter-protest to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a car plows through the crowd, killing a protester named Heather Heyer. This intensifies calls to remove Confederate monuments, including Silent Sam.
August 2017 – Mayor asks for removal
After Charlottesville, Chapel Hill mayor Pam Hemminger asks UNC to petition the North Carolina Historical Commission to remove the statue and place it in storage.
August 2017 - Barriers surround, more protests
Barriers are placed around Silent Sam in anticipation of students protesting as classes begin. Flyers on campus surfaced that said “The First Day of Silent Sam’s last semester.” This is when the monument becomes highly watched over by authorities. Rumors of a white supremacist rally coming to Durham sparked a protest following a different confederate statue being knocked over earlier in the week.
August 2017 - Robert E. Lee statue at Duke taken down after being defaced
September 2017 – Law firm considers suing
A New York-based law firm urges UNC to remove the statue or risk being sued because they said it violated federal anti-discrimination laws.
February 2018 – Faculty ultimatum, renewed calls
An anonymous group of faculty members demanded that the statue be taken down or they would do it themselves. They later backed off this ultimatum after they received word that Chancellor Carol Folt was preparing to urgently petition the State Historical Commission to relocate Silent Sam. Renewed calls via the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC Chapel Hill history also asked for additional markets to be added to share the story of McCorkle Place and include Bluetooth features for visitors to learn about the statues via a mobile device. The Unsung Founders Memorial, which pays tribute to slaves who built the university, would also be renovated.
May 2018 – Blood protest
Maya Little, a UNC graduate student who protested at the statue was arrested after putting red ink and what she said was her own blood on the monument. Little said she did it because the school had not fought to take down the statue. She said acts like that would continue until the school took Silent Sam down.
April 2018 - Supporters react with billboard campaign
Billboards show up in North Carolina defending the Confederate monuments. The opposition reacts with their own billboards, mentioning Silent Sam in the messaging
August 2018 – Silent Sam toppled
The night before UNC’s first day of class for the fall semester, protesters topple Silent Sam and it is taken away.
RESPONSES TO SILENT SAM'S TOPPLING
Orange County state legislators:
UNC student groups: