(From the Mission and Values Statement Approved by the UNC Board of Governors, November 2009 and February 2014.)
When Silent Sam – a Confederate monument – was dedicated on the grounds of the University of North Carolina in 1913, the University Band played “Dixie” and Julian Carr, a UNC graduate, Trustee and Civil War veteran spoke these words:
One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
It was the United Daughters of the Confederacy who first proposed the monument in 1907 and most of the funds raised to design, build, and erect the monument came from the same Julian Carr who “horse-whipped a negro wench.”
Yes, there were students who died in the Civil War along with brothers and fathers and friends. But it was a treasonous war. It was a war about heritage alright – but it was the heritage of owning black and brown human beings. It was about states’ rights for sure – but they were the rights of states to legalize the buying and selling of human chattel.
They/we lost the war. (My great, great grandfather died at Antietam fighting for the Confederates.) This was a war to perpetuate the sin of slavery. It was a war about white supremacy.
I was born and raised in Chapel Hill. I graduated from the University of North Carolina. I have sung about being Tarheel born and Tarheel bred (and when I die I’ll be Tarheel dead) all my life.
Today I am sick about my UNC heritage because of this.
Regarding the Confederate Statues in the southern states as well as the statues of slaveholders in the northeast states (looking at you Peter Stuyvesant) – I understand that we do not want to cover up our nation’s history even when that history is shameful. Some people say that – instead of removing statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Peter Stuyvesant -historians should add plaques that remind us that each of these famous men were among the largest slaveholders in our young nation.
A plaque probably wouldn’t have worked in the case of Silent Sam. For decades and decades many UNC faculty members and students tried to remove him until he was finally pulled to the ground on August 20, 2018. A plaque wouldn’t have kept students from pulling him off his pedestal.
And then this happened last week: The UNC Board of Governors not only gave Silent Sam to the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They also gave the the Sons of Confederate Veterans $2.5 million.
The Board of Governors of my alma mater gave $2.5 millions dollars to an organization who – on their own web page – identifies its purpose to be:
Preserving the history and legacy of these (Confederate) heroes so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.
Slavery is what animated the Southern Cause. Slavery. It was slavery. It was the heritage of slavery. It was the right to own slaves.
And preserving that heritage today perpetuates white supremacy. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a white supremacist organization. [Friendly reminder: we don’t have to wear klan robes or march with tiki torches to be white supremacists.]
The year Silent Sam was dedicated was also the year that Joe McNeely was lynched in my current hometown of Charlotte, NC on the ground where the Panthers play football. White supremacy was the law of the land in those days.
And we are kidding ourselves if we don’t believe that white supremacy is still in the air we breathe. Giving an organization whose existence is a tribute to white supremacy 2.5 million dollars is no way to bring light and liberty.
The “bold course” would have been for SOMEBODY on the Board of Governors to acknowledge that – if we indeed want to be an institution of higher learning known for “leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems” we would have put this monument in a museum and offered anti-racism training to people of all ages. For the love of God, you don’t encourage the ones who still believe that white people are superior to non-white people by paying them millions of endowment dollars.
I am so ashamed of this Board of Governors. This is not who I hoped we were. But the Board of Governors has declared loudly that – yes – this is indeed who we are.