It was a hell of a way to start the school year at UNC-Chapel Hill.

On Monday night, activists and students at the country’s first public university pulled down the statue of Silent Sam, the Confederate memorial that has been at the heart of controversy, protest and state law as of late.

It’s been on the campus since 1913, almost 50 years after the Civil War ended but right in the meat of the Jim Crow years, funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy when they were at their most active and influential. On the day it was dedicated, industrialist Julian Carr — for whom, incidentally, the town of Carrboro is named — described in some detail how, just a few months after the war ended, he “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” in front of federal soldiers near the spot. He added some claptrap about the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race, just in case anyone were to doubt the intentions of the crew who put this thing up.

We all know how Chapel Hillians love their traditions. But this one was a 100-year stain on UNC, a direct contrast to the temple of learning that the country’s first public university is supposed to represent, a cosmic joke at a school primarily known these days for its basketball team.

We all know how Chapel Hillians love their traditions. But this one was a 100-year stain on UNC, a direct contrast to the temple of learning that the country’s first public university is supposed to represent, a cosmic joke at a school primarily known these days for its basketball team.

It should have come down long before 2015, when the state made it illegal for entities like cities, counties and schools to decide for themselves if they want to celebrate the Confederacy — traitors who took up arms against the US in a losing effort to preserve their right to own other human beings for the purposes of making money.

Make no mistake, the people who tore down Silent Sam broke the law. It was an act of civil disobedience along the lines of the Greensboro Four at Woolworth’s, Muhammad Ali against the draft board, Bree Newsome tearing the Confederate flag off a statue outside the South Carolina Capitol Building.

It reminds us of those excluded from the political process, the oppression that still exists right here at home, and that, unlike Sam, the will of the people cannot be long silenced.

Comments

comments