Silent Sam in History and Memory

The University of North Carolina’s Confederate soldier monument, “Silent Sam,” continues to be a point of contention on campus. Over the past few years students have debated whether the monument ought to be removed or utilized in some other capacity that acknowledges its divisive past.

The video below offers a very concise and thoughtful overview of the monument’s history and interviews with teachers and students. I think Fitzhugh Brundage nails it at the end as to how to move forward. The video is ideal for introducing students to monument interpretation.

I did not know that the sculptor was Canadian, the model used for the soldier was from Massachusetts and the monument itself was forged in Rhode Island.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on May 18, 2015]

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9 comments… add one
  • Adam Nov 28, 2019 @ 17:55

    They have no ideas what they are saying. Besides, changing the signs will not change history. In communist countries they do away with every historic symbol that is not related to the”regime”. Is that where we’re going? Next is not to celebrate anything that is not considered OK (censored) by liberals of the day?

  • Lisa Tolbert Oct 7, 2015 @ 21:15

    So every statue ever erected has to stay there forever?

  • Boyd Harris May 20, 2015 @ 21:17

    ^^ A photo of the comedian Lewis Black on Silent Sam during his time at UNC. Its on page 110 of his book, Nothing’s Sacred.

    I attended UNC from 2000-03 and often had conversations with folks about Silent Sam. He is a controversial figure, but one that provokes the types of conversations that one should have while in college. I agree with Brundage and the others on this blog. Silent Sam is a part of UNC, but we should not be silent about his original purpose. Instead, Silent Sam can be a conversation starter for each new class of Tar Heels.

  • Pat Young May 19, 2015 @ 8:46

    The sculptor was actually a Canadian immigrant, living most of his life in the US. As you know, the Shaw monument was also sculpted by an immigrant.

  • Brad May 19, 2015 @ 5:44

    Thanks for posting that Kevin. A truly fascinating film and, like you, I agree with Professor Brundage. What happened, happened and removing the statue won’t change that but keeping it may offer constructive lessons for the future and a chance to reflect on the past.

  • Trueism May 19, 2015 @ 3:41

    Lets just erase all of history for there is something somewhere that will offend someone.

    • Kevin Levin May 19, 2015 @ 3:53

      I still don’t understand how removing a monument from campus constitutes ‘erasing history.’ In fact, a case could be made that the opposite is true. Individuals who feel strongly about removal are very focused on the past.

      I happen to agree with Professor Brundage that the space ought to be used by the school community to engage issues concerning history and memory.

      • Adam Nov 28, 2019 @ 17:55

        well said

    • Adam Nov 28, 2019 @ 18:02

      TRue. The pseudo-intellectuals have nothing else to do these days. Not to mention they do not research anything. It is all what someone else says that is taken face-value.

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