National Institute on Aging

University of North Carolina Gives Silent Sam to the Sons of Confederate Veterans

As students were leaving campus for the Thanksgiving holiday, the University of North Carolina System announced what is sure to be a controversial decision regarding the future of Silent Sam, the statue of a Confederate soldier that had stood at the entrance to the university for more than a century

In August 2018, the Silent Sam statue on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill honoring soldiers who fought for the Confederacy was torn down by protestors during a rally. According to North Carolina law, state-owned monuments cannot be removed or altered in any way without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission. The statue, erected in 1913 with the support of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, has been a divisive issue on the college’s campus for years.

In December 2018, university officials came up with a plan to build a new indoor facility to house the monument. In addition to the $5.3 million in construction costs, the building would need $800,000 annually for operating funds. A few days later the board of governors of the University of North Carolina rejected the plan. Silent Sam has been in limbo ever since.

The North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit that was immediately settled by the university and approved by a judge that gave ownership of the statue to the Confederate group. In addition, the university system would provide $2.5 million to establish a trust for “the care and preservation of the monument, including potentially a facility to house and display the monument.” The agreement also states that Silent Sam cannot be displayed in any of the state’s 14 counties where there is a campus of the University of North Carolina System.

It seems likely that the decision to give $2.5 million to a Confederate group will not sit well with many members of the campus community.


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