Silent Sam Silenced

I went to bed last night anticipating that the Confederate statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus known as “Silent Sam” would be pulled down. Last night’s rally took place a little over a week after the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, the white supremacist rally in D.C. led by Richard Spencer and just days after Duke University announced that it would leave the space at their chapel entrance where Robert E. Lee once stood vacant.

Here are some pics from last night’s rally.

Silent Sam didn’t feel anything while being toppled over by students nor did he feel anything while the crowd kicked and spit on him. The same could not be said for the African American woman, who Julian Carr referenced in his dedication speech for the statue in 1913:

I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. 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.

This national debate about Confederate monuments is far from over.

61 thoughts on “Silent Sam Silenced

  1. Connie Chastain

    Wow! You went into Quick Gloat mode, didn’t cha? Oh, how you love anti-Confederate lawlessness…. The only person responsible for mistreating the African American woman was the person who did it. Dylann Roof is a crazy person, nothing he did should validate any sane person’s thoughts.

    I’ll bet you think this rise of lawlessness indicates a “retreat” of Confederate heritage, don’t you?

    Do you know how utterly dishonest your stands and pronouncements look to sane, well-adjusted people?

    Reply
    1. Jimmy Dick

      Retreat? No, KKKonnie, it represents the correcting of a massive lie. The time has come to remove the symbols of treason, of racism, of oppression, and a fake past. What you call confederate heritage is nothing but a lie meant to prop up white supremacy. As you can see by what took place not only at this monument but at many others across the nation, the people of the country are tired of putting up with people like you and your monuments to treason, racism, oppression, and a lie.

      Good riddance to bad rubbish. Now go screech some more to your dwindling group of fellow skeered screechers. No sane, well-adjusted people are listening to your lies anymore.

      Reply
  2. Claudia Gibson

    I consider myself sane and well adjusted. My husband’s great-great grandfather was a Confederate general. I think every Reconstruction era statue should be pulled down. The point of these statues was to enforce the disenfranchisement of southern African Americans. The speech made at this particular statue’s dedication only enforces that.

    Reply
  3. Rob Baker

    You might remember that last Spring I gave my U.S. History students an assignment based on the 60 Minutes piece about Confederate Monuments. (Link Below) Allow me to share a couple of the responses.
    https://historicstruggle.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/60-minutes-confederate-monuments/

    One of the questions:
    Do you think that state laws that protect Confederate monuments are beneficial or detrimental to the Confederate monument debate?

    Answers:
    I think its detrimental because they don’t want to debate it and that’s just going to explode later on.

    Detrimental. I think it would definitely show a favoritism of the “lost cause” side of the debate, considering state laws will protect the statues. This could lead to a very angry group that would like to tear them down that might possibly break the new law in order to achieve that goal and it would drag the state government into the issue in a very biased fashion.

    State laws are detrimental to the debate, because they provide protections on monuments that could be debated and should be debated as time goes on. These statues should be open to free public interpretation, not subject to state bureaucracy.

    Currently I think they are detrimental to the debate because it is holding up the decision which can cause the impatience to do rash things.

    Reply
      1. Leonard Lanier

        These students have a better conception of present political reality than the North Carolina Historical Commission. Amid all the news about Silent Sam, they finally issued a ruling about the governor’s request to move the Old Capitol Green monuments. To no real suprise, they rejected the request, although they recommended new intrepretative signage and the erection of a new monument to African-Americans. Here a link to the their
        suggested motions: https://www.ncdcr.gov/study-committee-relocation-monuments.

        Reply
    1. Josh

      Why not both? There was a revolution on and that statue made quite a lot of musket balls. But Patriots/Rebels were often quite brutal and abusive to Loyalists/Tories before and during the American Revolution.

      Reply
      1. Ewan Wardle

        Absolutely. I used this example from America’s past because I often fine little retrospective on the part of those who decry the removal of monuments.

        Reply
  4. Boyd Harris

    Worth noting that the Lee quote on the side of the statue base (sublimest word in the English language) has been heavily disputed by scholars and there is no evidence Lee ever said it. So much for the history lesson I was supposed to get at that statue when I was at UNC. Good riddance.

    Hark the Sound!
    Class of 03.

    Reply
  5. Brad Greenberg

    Regardless of where one stands on the issue of “Confederate Monuments” on public property, there is one thing I think most of us can (or should be able to) agree on: acts of vandalism, like this one, are illegal and dangerous, and and the people who plan and/or execute these acts should be arrested and put on trial.

    To those who who support what happened last night, how would you feel if a mob tore down and kicked a statue of a black Civil War soldier? or a statue of Martin Luther King Jr? or a statue of Jesus?…. Would your view change if someone had gotten hurt?

    There is a part of me that thinks that those who planned and executed this action may have known, deep down, that they were doing something wrong. wrong. Why else would they do it at night, using sheets to hide themselves, and bringing ropes and a mob?

    Reply
    1. Jimmy Dick

      When governments purposely act contrary to the demands of the people, the people have the right to take action. A small group of people who have political power used that power to reject the demands of the people. The people then acted.

      As Ewan Wardle pointed out, this isn’t the first time people have taken to the streets to enact their demands when a government failed to heed them. See Ray Raphael’s monograph “A People’s History of the American Revolution” for what took place in Boston over the Stamp Act in 1765.
      You can also look up the Boston Tea Party.

      The time has come to take out the trash. Governments can do it in a way that follows the will of the people or the people can take action on their own. Following that, you can expect to see some governments changing over time as the voters speak at the polls, at least where they’re not being denied their right to vote by representatives of the government who don’t believe in freedom, equality, and democracy.

      Reply
      1. Josh

        While I’m in favor of the moving and removing of many CSA statues, on a case-by-case basis, I don’t think failure to remove those statues by a democratically elected goverment is comparable to actual infringement on rights by a distant and unrepresentative goverment.

        Reply
        1. Ewan Wardle

          “[I]nfringement on rights by a distant and unrepresentative government.”

          Come, come Josh, the issue in the Thirteen Colonies had never been representation, but about the power of taxation and self-governance.

          Also, didn’t judges just determine that North Carolina congressional districts are unconstitutionally gerrymandered to help Republicans.

          Reply
        2. Jimmy Dick

          A court just ruled that the North Carolina government has continued to generate gerrymandered districts for representation that inhibit fair representation for the people of the state. That’s the third time this ruling has been made regarding the current district planning by this legislature.
          The rights of the people are being infringed by their government and the court has ruled upon that in favor of the people three times now on the same issue.

          Reply
  6. Nathan Towne

    As much as I hate to agree with Ms. Chastain about anything, this post does demonstrate a thinly veiled glee on your part with the destruction of the statute, which is really not the response which should​ be coming from any student of history. For you to deny that this post does so would be thoroughly dishonest on your part, as you know that a post like this serves the clear purpose of egging on this type of behavior. To quote you, “Silent Sam didn’t​ feel anything while being toppled over by students, nor did he feel anything while the crowd kicked and spit on him. The same could not be said for the African-American woman, who Julian Carr referenced in his dedication speech for the statue in 1913.” You are very clearly cheering this on.

    Vandalism and destruction is not the answer, as preservation is always important for the next generation, albeit in a more appropriate environment. Make no mistake about it, these monuments are historical in themselves, and future historians, including historians of the Civil Rights era should be able​ to study them. For them not to be available for that purpose, when they can be so easily preserved, would be a disaster on our part. As far as preservation is concerned, it makes no difference that they were used to romanticize the Confederate cause and often to misinform about the nature of the war and of reconstruction. Preservation is the first and foremost responsibility of the historian. If you are not willing to condemn vandalism and destruction, you are violating that foremost responsibility.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I wouldn’t waste my time trying to convince you otherwise. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Nathan.

      Reply
      1. Nathan Towne

        *statue

        Of course, but this is really quite a serious issue and how you, as a student of history, can think that vandalism and destruction of monuments which played important roles in their local communities and in the history of the country is an acceptable answer, in any way, is really incredible and profoundly anti-intellectual. The greatest responsibility of the historian, above anything else, is to do what can be done, within reason, to work towards making sure that the historical record is preserved for future generations. Of course, both of us would prefer to see these monuments removed and I would vote in favor of doing so if it were an issue in my local community which came up for a vote provided that I were generally confident that there would remain an avenue in which the monument could still be used by future generations. For instance, I would be in favor of removal and the placing of the monument into storage until a permanent home for it, in a more appropriate environment, could be found. As you know, I have said all of this before. What is absolutely unacceptable though is destruction and that you are fine with it is profoundly disappointing and troubling. Historians do not and cannot sit idly by while the historical record is defiled. They must condemn such acts of vandalism. To actually openly encourage it is something so anathema to everything that the profession stands for and so inimical to the standards which have enabled the current generation to utilize the enormous trove of resources at our disposal as to be beyond belief that anyone who has spent even a modicum of time utilizing the historical record could be content with it.

        Furthermore, Mr. Dick’s analogy above is wholly erroneous because he is conflating together two concepts which are really very different, one being the assertion of or defense of the inalienable rights of all persons and the other being the violation of law, through mob action, in a nation in which as citizens we are all co-sovereigns of the Republic which upholds and protects those rights under law. Therefore, his argument is nothing more than one for mob rule and anarchy, which is a patently absurd argument to make, for obvious reasons.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Exactly where do you see me calling for or justifying the vandalism of monuments in this post?

          With all due respect, I don’t need a lecture from you or the responsibilities of the historian.

          Reply
          1. Nathan Towne

            You can barely contain yourself in this post. In your words:

            “I went to bed last night anticipating that the Confederate statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus known as “Silent Sam” would be pulled down.

            Silent Sam didn’t feel anything while being toppled over by students nor did he feel anything while the crowd kicked and spit on him. The same could not be said for the African American woman, who Julian Carr referenced in his dedication speech for the statue in 1913.”

            As for the responsibilities of the historian, if you think that it is perfectly fine for the historical record to be defiled, then we are going to have to disagree on the later point. These monuments played an important role in segregation and in the history of the country and being that they are in the public domain, their destruction is indefensible. We should be working to try to find ways in which they will be available for the next generation of historian, not encouraging, nor turning a blind eye on, their destruction.

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Really? This is your evidence that I “can barely contain myself”?

              I have tried to be as clear as possible over the years as to my own evolving view on monuments. I see not a single sentence in this post as calling for the vandalism or forced removal of any Civil War monuments.

              Reply
              1. Nathan Towne

                You are not being honest here and you know that as you have been egging this on on for some time now, as you do again here in this post. Your tactic of putting up inflammatory material and then jumping back and pretending as if you had no idea what the implications of what you wrote were is a trick that you have been pulling for years and have been called out on repeatedly. Here are two obvious examples, among many: http://cwmemory.com/2006/04/18/how-not-to-argue-about-the-civil-war/
                http://cwmemory.com/2006/04/28/another-ride-on-the-mcpherson-express/

                However, even if you were being entirely candid, that would simply mean that you are taking a position of indifference towards the destruction of historical monuments which played an important role in the history of the country, by mob action. That is not a defensible position either. Removal is one thing and is something which I have always supported, provided that it is done via the will of the local citizenry. Destruction is another thing entirely and is not acceptable from a historical perspective.

              2. Kevin Levin Post author

                You’ve clearly spent way too much time reading this blog. I suggest getting another hobby.

        2. Jimmy Dick

          I suggest you go back in time and tell the good people of Boston and Ebenezer MacIntosh how you feel. Then go tell the men and women who supported the American Revolution that they were wrong and that they should just follow the laws passed by Parliament which were not in their interests.

          The government of North Carolina has acted on purpose to thwart the desires of the people of North Carolina. They had the responsibility and duty, not to mention the obligation that came with holding the offices to which they were elected, to do the right thing. They instead chose to continue to force the people to observe the symbol of tyranny, racism, injustice, and treason. The people took action on their own to address the problem.

          Historians at the University of North Carolina did address the problem. Their words were ignored by the government because the individuals in the government don’t want to give up their beliefs and assumptions which are quite erroneous as to the cause of the Civil War, let alone the purpose of monuments like Silent Sam.

          I don’t like mob rule. I don’t like the violence that comes with it, but when a government refuses to address a problem and do the morally correct thing, there comes a time when people have to take action. This nation was founded on the actions of people who stood up to the tyranny and oppression of an unjust government.

          Sometimes there is a fine line between right and wrong. I would prefer that these monuments be repurposed for historical purposes. It is time for the lies of the lost cause to be swept in the dustbin of history where they belong. It is time for these monuments to traitors, racists, and oppressors to be taken down. Communities have every right to decide on what is placed in their community, yet the state governments of North Carolina and others refuses to accept that basic fact of freedom. So the people stood up to the tyranny and oppression of their state government. Hopefully they will follow up on their actions by electing new officials at all levels of government who honor the will of the people and do not believe in the lost cause lies. I don’t care what party is involved either.

          Reply
          1. Nathan Towne

            You have apparently missed where I noted that you are conflating together concepts which are really very different. As I wrote, the assertion of, or defense, of ones inalienable rights against oppression via government is obviously not comparable to violation of law in a Republic in which the citizenry are co-sovereigns to a government which is enumerated powers sufficient to protect the rights of the citizenry. This really should go without saying.

            Reply
            1. Ewan Wardle

              I am reminded Nathan of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail:

              “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ […]”

              Furthermore, please recall that the rebellion against the Crown—the legitimate government—by a cabal of new and untried leaders, radicals, and demagogues would not have been happened without mob and extra-legal action. Societal unrest helped pave the way for colonists to see the British, and the institution of monarchy and King George III in particular, as the enemies of liberty. Consequently, I take no issue with Jimmy Dick reiterating a point I made earlier.

              Reply
            2. Jimmy Dick

              Nathan, you have your opinion and I have mine. So did the protesters. So did some unhinged nutjob in 1776 along with around 50 other nutjobs when they said:

              We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

              When a government refuses to listen to the people that hold the ultimate authority over that government, people will take action. You can find a lot of examples of that in history. In this case a monument to treason, racism, and oppression went tumbling down to the ground. Governments everywhere who seek to protect these monuments to treason, racism, and oppression should start paying attention. If not, more of the monuments will come down via actions like this. Those governments know they can easily take the monuments down, but refuse to do so in order to continue to perpetuate an outright lie and to sustain white supremacy.

              Hopefully, in upcoming elections the people will throw the officials of these unjust governments out on their rear end and put in people who will represent the desires of the people who elected them.

              As for me, I’m with those unhinged nutjobs from 1776. If it had been left to you, we’d still be part of the British Empire. No, I’m not conflating these matters. You may think so, but I disagree with you.

              Reply
              1. Nathan Towne

                Every person is endowed with inalienable rights. They then live as co-sovereigns in a representative government with a judiciary that is responsible for protecting and upholding the rights of the citizenry under law. Furthermore, every citizen is always free to renounce their citizenship, thusly ensuring protection of their rights. Of course, mob rule and anarchy are inimical to the functions of any government. We can discount Mr. Levin’s argument that extra-legally tearing down monuments does not constitute mob action, as well, when obviously it does.

                “As for me, I’m with those unhinged nutjobs from 1776. If it had been left to you, we’d still be part of the British Empire.”

                Pathetic.

              2. Jimmy Dick

                Thank you for making my point for me, Nathan. Your support of laws which protect racism and the disenfranchisement of voters has been noted.

              3. Nathan Towne

                It is quite illuminating that you feel the need to resort to an absurd strawman accusation. I think that readers will be able to recognize the silliness of your accusation towards me without any further comment on it from myself.

                Thank you,
                Nathan Towne

              4. Jimmy Dick

                Nathan,
                You keep saying things that I do not think you know what they mean. Judging by comments already here, I think the readers are making their opinions known quite well.

                Have a nice day!

              5. Kevin Levin Post author

                Jimmy and Nathan,

                Thanks for the give and take, but I think it’s time to end this thread.

    2. Josh

      “these monuments are historical in themselves”

      Monuments aren’t history, they celebrate and honor history.

      In a any case, being historic is simply a matter of age. Not everything historic is historically significant. Nor does being historically significant provide carte-blanche protection against removal.

      Reply
  7. Kellen

    In all honesty, this is expected from the malevolent PC mobs and the violent left-wing vandals. They are zealously driven and poisonously motivated by a fraudulent ideology and false virtue which casually ignores the fact that the Confederate Monuments stand in honor of courageous men who fought to defend their homes and families from a merciless invader. But they fool no one, not even themselves.

    Reply
    1. abrosenfeld

      They were mostly erected and stood to intimidate African Americans and remind them of their “place.”

      Reply
    2. Jimmy Dick

      If you took the time to read why the monument was erected, along with the rest of the monuments instead of making up a lie to support your intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology, you might be able to articulate something better than the lie you typed. But then, people like you aren’t interested in actual history, but instead prefer to make up lies to support your fantasies, Kellen.

      They’re coming down whether you like it or not.

      Reply
    1. Ewan Wardle

      Really Kellen? Do you have supporting evidence that the Washington Monument or Jefferson Memorial were erected to intimidate African Americans and remind them of their “place.”

      You’ve been loitering around this blog for a few weeks now and I’m getting the impression that you are not looking for sincere and productive dialogue.

      Reply
      1. Tom Richey

        Most of those on the internet who are claiming to have supporting evidence that these monuments were erected for the sole purpose of projecting white supremacy have as their supporting evidence a single paragraph that they copied and pasted from the internet. This was not a mob of scholars who committed this act of vandalism. When they decide to show up en masse at the Jefferson Memorial, there will be no trial before they throw a rope around his statue and give the “PULL!” order.

        Reply
        1. Rob Baker

          Are you referencing the single paragraph specifically about Silent Sam or a paragraph about the Confederate monuments in general? If it’s the latter, I’d love to see what that paragraph is. Regardless, that’s a pretty bold general statement to make in regards to evidence and the motivations of the protesters.

          When they decide to show up en masse at the Jefferson Memorial, there will be no trial before they throw a rope around his statue and give the “PULL!” order.

          I’ve heard this slippery slope argument time and time again, and outside of a couple of random examples that do not gain traction, it’s pretty baseless. So why make it?

          Reply
        2. Kevin Levin Post author

          Most of those on the internet who are claiming to have supporting evidence that these monuments were erected for the sole purpose of projecting white supremacy have as their supporting evidence a single paragraph that they copied and pasted from the internet.

          No, in fact there are plenty of primary sources throughout this period to support such a claim.

          Reply
  8. Tom Richey

    I am not nearly as concerned about what Silent Sam felt while he was being spat upon and beaten as with what the people who were abusing this inanimate object were feeling. A Lord of the Rings quote seems appropriate here:

    “What can men do against such reckless hate?”

    Reply
    1. Msb

      What can people do? How about allow local communities to make their own democratic decisions about what monuments they wish to have? Too bad the NC legislature forbids that. What would you suggest that such a community do, when it has no legal recourse?

      Reply
  9. Kellen

    It’s true, the hate-filled, violent, left-wing mobocracy is emerging as a genuine sociological force. Whether it’s padlocks-in-a-sock Antifa or the vandals at UNC, their methodology is terrorism, pure and simple. And indeed, it’s only a matter of time before they bring symbols of white supremacy like the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial in their sights. And the Lincoln Memorial won’t be far behind.

    Reply
  10. Phil R

    It’s probably worth noting at this point that precisely NOTHING has been destroyed, except for the fasteners that held the statue to its base. It may be a bit dinged up, like it was when it was attacked previously. For now, and I’m guessing for all time, it’s safe from destruction. Silent Sam’s new scars now bears witness to yet another layer of accreted history, which will be accessible to future generations of Tarheels when they view him in his (contextualized) display. That display will explain fully the social milieu in which he was erected, the passive white supremacy that protected him for the better part of the century, the quaint campus traditions that he was part of, and the early 21st century events–and resulting rapid social changes–that brought him down off his pedestal. His toppling has merely hastened what must be much more obviously inevitable today, in hindsight. It’s going to be a lot cheaper to preserve him than it was to protect him in situ, and that’s probably the case for a number of other monuments.

    Reply
  11. andersonh1

    Why quote one paragraph from Julian Carr’s speech, and ignore not only the rest of this speech, but also the dedication speeches by the other speakers that day: Governor Locke Craig, Mrs. Marshall Williams (NC UDC), Mrs. Henry London (chairman of the monument committee, and thus the definitive speaker on why the monument was commissioned and what it means), University President Francis Venable, and last of all, General Julian Carr.

    Is taking one quote (a “personal allusion” according to Carr) that is not only out of place in Carr’s speech, but out of place when compared to all the other “honor and duty” speeches, giving an honest analysis of the day’s sentiments? Everyone should read every speech given that day, including the entirety of Carr’s speech, not just pull one or two paragraphs and think they understand the sentiment behind the monument. The speeches are on the web and not that hard to track down. If you read them, the broadly expressed sentiment across all speakers is to honor the students who went off to war, both those that died and those who were still alive.

    Carr’s “allusion” stands out to me as a crass out of place remark in his own speech, let alone all the other speeches given that day.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      So, if we quote more of the text are we then allowed to talk about this particular section? How exactly will that change the interpretation?

      Reply
      1. andersonh1

        By “allowed” to talk about this particular section, you imply that I’m advocating censorship of it. What you are actually encouraging here is an undue emphasis on a minor part of the dedication day’s events, thus essentially censoring everything else said that day and creating a false impression about the purpose of the monument.

        Carr’s words are a tiny part of a much larger event, and should be studied in context and in comparison with everything else that was said that day, otherwise how can they possibly be interpreted correctly? In isolation they tell us something about him, certainly, but not much else.

        Reply
    2. Andy Hall

      I actually think the preceding paragraph is worse, and much more to the point of his speech. It cannot be dismissed as a personal anecdote, because it cuts directly to the hagiography of his address:

      The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

      When he talks about former Confederate soldiers “during the four years immediately succeeding the war,” “when ‘the bottom rail was on top’ all over the Southern states,” whose “courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South,” he’s saluting the Klu Klux Klan and other night riders who used fear, intimidation, and violence to keep Freedmen in check. It’s easy for a modern audience to skim right past that phrasing, but North Carolinians in 1913, white and black alike, understood exactly what he was referring to.

      Reply

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