Orange County

Chamber apologizes for role in keeping Chapel Hill, Carrboro segregated

Demonstrators covered the Silent Sam statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, in black cloth on Aug. 13 in response to violent clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce joined the voices calling for UNC to remove the statue on Monday, Aug. 28.
Demonstrators covered the Silent Sam statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, in black cloth on Aug. 13 in response to violent clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce joined the voices calling for UNC to remove the statue on Monday, Aug. 28. tlong@newsobserver.com

A group representing local businesses apologized for supporting historical segregation Monday and joined the call for UNC-Chapel Hill to take Silent Sam down from his campus pedestal.

“As an important first step, our Chamber of Commerce acknowledges and apologizes for opposing the integration of public accommodations in Chapel Hill and we regret our role in supporting segregation that did not end until ordered so by the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce officials said in a news release.

The chamber also asked that the campus’ monument to Confederate soldiers be moved to “a more appropriate place where both the Civil War, and the Jim Crow Era of its installation, can be appropriately remembered,” according to the statement signed by chamber President and CEO Aaron Nelson and three other chamber leaders.

The chamber also is petitioning the N.C. Historical Commission to relocate and preserve the monument in a place where it can be put into context.

Aaron Nelson
Aaron Nelson Contributed

“We agree with University of Texas President Gregory Fenves when he says, ‘our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of (our campus). We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus,’” said Nelson and chamber Chairman Joel Levy, Vice Chairman Reagan Greene Pruitt and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Brett Bushnell.

There is “considerable work” left to understand and fight institutional racism and to enfranchise and empower all citizens, the men wrote.

“We call on our community to acknowledge, as we do, the lasting negative impacts that slavery, civil war, segregation, and discrimination have had on our community and its people. We pledge our active participation in the courageous conversations needed to address these issues,” they said.

The chamber, a nonprofit business leadership organization with 1,250 local business members employing over 80,000 people, plans to talk about issues of institutional racism at its annual State of the Community Report and Conference on Sept. 29 at the UNC Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

The chamber and its Partnership for a Sustainable Community also will reconvene the Community Leadership Council to lead community leaders in addressing local and regional challenges and to capitalize on opportunities, the release stated.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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