Board of Governors rejects Board of Trustees plan for Silent Sam
Move statue to Bennett Place
In response to Friday’s decision by the UNC Board of Governors to turn down the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees’ recommendation to construct a new facility on campus to house the Silent Sam statue and appoint a board-level committee to make another recommendation for his location, I’d like to offer a suggestion for consideration:
As a UNC-CH bachelor of arts graduate 65 years ago in the Class of 1954, the year that campus first accepted African-American students in its Law School and became integrated, and except for my three years on active duty in the Air Force, I have been a resident of Durham. I’d like to recommend that after the legislature allows the university to move Silent Sam off Campus, the committee look at the possibility of moving Silent Sam to Bennett Place State Historic Site, where the final surrender of the Civil War took place.
It seems to me this would be an ideal and safe location for the statue to remain. Silent Sam holding a rifle, which has no bullets (so it could not be fired), does memorialize the end of slavery. When I was an undergraduate we were of the opinion that his purpose was to fire the rifle when a virgin walked past. For over 100 years he never has fired it because he has no bullets.
Six feet under
Re the guest column “The Confederacy Lives in NC law. Why respect that?” Dec. 12
In a recent opinion article about the Silent Sam statue controversy, Distinguished Professor Eric Muller asked why we should observe laws that do not warrant our respect. I agree with his sentiment, but I believe there are alternative solutions that sidestep ignoring North Carolina regulations.
The law allows us to return Silent Sam to its original location or relocate it. If it is relocated, it must be “to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability.”
However, these criteria do not apply if we return Sam to his original location. So, let’s dig a grave where Silent Sam once stood and bury him.
This meets the legal requirement to return the “memorial to its original location, and serves to mark the death of an horrific historic event. If UNC wants a more elegant solution, they could mount it “properly” below ground with a glass floor over top so that everyone could look down on this shameful symbol. Also, the law only applies to state-owned memorials. Thus, the state could donate him and make the law irrelevant. I think a foundry would be an ideal recipient.
UNC-Chapel Hill students call themselves “Tar Heels.” They’re rightfully proud of what their school stands for.
Many (maybe most) of the university’s traditions are rooted in the antebellum South. For example, the name “Tar Heels” itself pays homage to brave Confederate soldiers who steadfastly fought with feet anchored to the ground as if by pine tar on their heels. Ironically, the students call themselves Tar Heels, but desecrate statues of their namesake.
A verse from the school song (I’m a Tar Heel born, …) is an obvious derivative of the Confederate song “Dixie.” It has exactly the same harmonies, phrasing, structure, chord changes, tempo, spirit, energy, sound, and musical style as “Dixie.” It uses a somewhat modified melody, but if played simultaneously, the two songs fit together perfectly.
Their lyrics convey similar sentiments — eternal affection for the South. That history is perpetual and can never be undone no matter how many protests are staged; no matter how much hatred or intolerance is expressed; no matter how many statues are desecrated; and no matter how many towns, roads or buildings are renamed. It’s better to use energy and resources to improve the future rather than to try to undo the past.
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