I had this idea a few months ago and planned to take it as a petition to the Chapel Hill Town Council when they returned in September, but maybe we should get movement on this now.
Instead of the hand wringing and statute citing currently being engaged in by UNC in response to concerns about the Silent Sam confederate memorial statue, why aren't we employing a little more creativity?
Town property exists just across the street from where that block of granite and metal stand. We call that place Peace and Justice Plaza. I propose that the town erect on that property, near or on the corner of Franklin and Henderson, a display explaining and condemning the memorial that sits just a few hundred feet away.
A permanent display, one that we hope will outlive Sam, could be commissioned by the Downtown Partnership thereby providing a vehicle through which UNC could partially or fully pay for the display (the Town and UNC are the “partners” referenced in organization's name). Language for the display could be something like:
“A few hundred feet to the south stands/stood UNC’s confederate memorial. It was raised during the height of the Jim Crow era, a time when the KKK was being invited to film screenings in the White House and after former generals and their sons who had rebelled against our country had regained political control of the southern states. A vivid and gleeful description of oppressive and violent acts against African Americans were spoken by community leaders at its dedication. The Town of Chapel Hill rejects the spirit with which it was erected and what it stands for. Such lessons of history belong in museums lest we forget how past revisionist regained a narrative that justified subjugation of African Americans for more than 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, current NC law prevents the lawful removal of the statue.
Public Works could fabricate a temporary display in the town’s sign shop until a more permanent one is commissioned allowing this message to be erected in short order.
Mark Kleinscmidt is a former mayor of Chapel Hill. This column appeared on his Facebook post and is published here with his permission.