The History Department’s Statement on the Confederate Memorial at UNC (aka “Silent Sam” Statue)

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The faculty of the Department of History urges the officers of UNC and other state officials to pursue every avenue to remove the “Silent Sam” monument. For more than a century it has stood in the most conspicuous public space on our campus. Then and now, the location of the monument speaks to the intent of its creators to ensure that the heritage they commemorated would have pride of place at the front door of the state’s flagship university. While they shared a veneration of slavery, the “Old South,” the Confederacy, and the ideology of white supremacy, many of their contemporaries in North Carolina and elsewhere did not. From its inception, the monument was exclusionary and offered a highly selective interpretation of the nation’s history. In the twenty-first century that interpretation is so incompatible with the principles we faculty and this university strive to uphold that the continued presence of the monument in its current location is a threat to the safety of the people of our university and a daily affront.

Moved to an appropriate place, the “Silent Sam’ monument can become a useful historical artifact with which to teach the history of the university and its still incomplete mission to be “the People’s University.” Until then, the monument will continue to promote malicious values that have persisted too long on this campus, in this state, and in this nation.

This statement was released following a departmental vote. The agreed procedure stipulates that statements of this nature require the support of a minimum of 3/4 of the faculty who participated in the vote.  In this instance, 41 faculty members cast ballots.

The History Department’s Recommended Links Related to “Silent Sam”

In the interest of promoting fuller understanding of this statement and the controversy surrounding the “Silent Sam” monument, we encourage you to delve into the materials linked below.  They include links to basic information about the monument and archival material related to the construction and dedication of the monument.  Other linked materials include commentary by members of this department.

Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina

Important facts about the Silent Sam statue.

By Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina Project Team and Advisory Board

A Guide to Researching Campus Monuments and Buildings: “Silent Sam” Confederate Monument

A list of books, articles, and similar resources detailing the history and present controversy surrounding the “Silent Sam” Confederate memorial on the UNC campus.

A Guide to Resources about UNC’s Confederate Monuments

A guide to primary sources held in the University Archives and other Wilson Library collections about the planning and dedication of Silent Sam and the discussion surrounding the monument in the years since.

Beyond the Headlines: Confederate Monuments, Historical Memory, & Free Speech 

A paneled discussion with Carolina Public Humanities featuring Dr. William Sturkey, Dr. Harry Watson, and moderated by Dr. Lloyd Kramer.

History Speaks on Intentions Behind Confederate Statues

“The civic leaders who financed and built those monuments made their intentions clear: they sought to normalize white supremacy and give legitimacy to the Jim Crow regime that they began to build in the early 20th century.”

By James Leloudis, Professor of History at UNC Chapel Hill

Julian Carr Did Wrong, but also a Good Deal Right

“It would behoove participants in the public debate over the Silent Sam statue to take a closer look at a historical personage who has become central therein: Julian S. Carr.”

By Peter Coclanis, Albert R. Newsome Distinguished Professor of History at UNC Chapel Hill

I’ve Studied the History of Confederate Memorials.  Here’s What to Do about Them

“Confederate monuments that have aesthetic significance can and should be preserved in museums where they can be properly interpreted by curators and docents. In such settings, they will serve as historical artifacts rather than civic monuments.”

By W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B Umstead Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Why America Is Wrestling with Confederate Monuments

PBS Newshour’s William Brangham talks to Peniel Joseph of the University of Texas, W. Fitzhugh Brundage of the University of North Carolina, Pierre McGraw of the Monumental Task Committee.

The Future of Silent Sam

Former UNC Chancellor James Moeser, and department members William Sturkey and Fitz Brundage discuss the history and future of “Silent Sam” on WCHL.

A presentation on the history of Silent Sam:

Silent Sam

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