University of North Carolina Plans to Reinstall ‘Silent Sam’ Statue Toppled by Protesters

When protesters tore down the Silent Sam statue at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in August to the sound of cheers, you might think that was the end of a bad chapter in history. Activists shouldn’t need to take matters into their own hands when it comes to getting rid of racist monuments, but here we are.

Or here we aren’t, in this case, because Chancellor Carol Felt is proposing putting the statue back up in a purpose-built facility that would cost $5.3 million. And that will be added to the eye-popping $40 million spent in the U.S. in the last decade on propping up historical revisionism and racism in the form of Confederate monuments and organizations.

Take action: Join Care2 activists calling on UNC’s Board of Governors to kick Silent Sam off campus.

The statue was installed in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization that has campaigned across the United States to erect Confederate monuments. If you’re wondering why it’s called “Silent Sam” — a name dating to the 1950s — that’s because the soldier depicted in the statue lacks a cartridge box, making it impossible for him to fire his gun. This was a deliberate stylistic choice seen in a number of contemporary monuments.

Its prominent position on the UNC campus turned the statue into an unofficial mascot, and an unofficial shame.

Students, alumni, and members of the community have been fighting for removal for a long time. In fact, UNC actually added another monument, the Unsung Founders Memorial, to mitigate some of the controversy. In 2017, when the movement to remove Confederate monuments from display began to pick up steam, so did the pressure on Silent Sam.

The university says the statue should be displayed in a secure environment where historical context can be provided. In addition to the initial construction costs, the center would cost around $800,000 annually in operations.

There are probably better things to invest in than creating a showcase for a Confederate monument, but university officials are in a complicated legal position. Thanks to a 2015 state law, they can’t just take the statue down and put it into storage, which is their preference. Nor can they take Silent Sam to an off-campus site and display the statue there. To do either of these things, they’d need an act of legislation.

This newly proposed facility may be seen by some as a workaround, but to others, it’s a capitulation to white supremacy.

Anti-racist organizers note that reinstalling the statue would be a loaded act, making the campus unwelcoming for black students — and upping student fees to pay for the new facility would be another slap in the face. There’s a mechanism for permanently removing the statue, after all: pressuring the state legislature to pass a law allowing the university to do so, or working to repeal or alter the 2015 law that’s created this situation.

A change to the law could be a boon for localities that can’t afford a fight with the legislature if they want to tear down a racist monument.

The debate over Confederate monuments has been heated: Many feel they stand not just as legacies of racism, but also as reminders of present-day racist activities. The Confederate flag, for example, isn’t just a historical object but a banner people freely display to advertise hateful, racist ideology.

In this landscape, a monument isn’t a static remembrance of times past, but an incitement to violence that can make members of the black community very uncomfortable. Organizations are removing these statues to create a more friendly, inclusive environment — not because they’re “bowing to PC culture.”

Proponents claim these statues should be left up and intact as part of “heritage” or community “history.” This is a thin argument; ample documentation of the Civil War exists and is available for study. And arguably those most harmed by the legacy of the war should be respected when they make their views known.

Removing monuments doesn’t erase history or undo hundreds of years of oppression, but it does mean that the descendants of enslaved people don’t have to see idealized monuments to the traitors on the losing side of a war over slavery on their way to work or school every morning.

Take Action!

Care2 activists are asking UNC’s Board of Governors to reject this proposal in favor of taking Silent Sam off display.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo credit: Anthony Crider/Creative Commons


Ann B
Ann B2 months ago

history is history--if it was placed there- it should remain....racism has gotten out of control---the flag should have been left in the court house too

Chad A
Chad A3 months ago

Thank you.

Mary B
Mary B4 months ago

If you don't remember history you are doomed to repeat it sounds pretty stupid when we ARE REPEATING IT anyway. Take that crap off campus and let some white Nationalist store it privately if they want, but do not allow to be any part of mainstream culture .We rejected those ideas long ago. Do NOT let them stand as a blueprint to fallow.

Maria P
Martha P4 months ago


Chad Anderson
Chad A4 months ago

Thank you.

Julia R
Julia R4 months ago

What a waste of money and on something that is from a shameful part of our history not something to be proud of! What kind of thinking do these statues represent and then to be on the campus of a university yet? Haven't we made any progress in our thinking since that dark period in our history?

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H4 months ago

thats disappointing

Carol C
Carol C4 months ago

Thank you for the post. Racist and a waste of money that could be spent for education. Petition signed.

Leo C
Leo C4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Leo C
Leo C4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!