In Defense of Silent Sam

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  1. plurimus

     /  August 21, 2017

    Hi Nancy,

    History shows that driving symbols underground creates more instability and resentment and in some cases, idolizes something that is in fact awful. I believe that understanding the failed idea of the Confederacy and what led up to succession is critical to not repeating it. The historical context of John Wilson’s Silent Sam (created in 1911 and erected at UNC in 1913) and his Union complement Daniel Bean (also created in 1911) is lost in an emotional swirl. The truth is that Silent Sam romanticizes the “lost cause” and reconstruction and obscures the ugly history of the war and its aftermath..

    A recent piece on race relations in the NYT put the Confederate Flag in historical relief and the context is reveling and shows the importance of teaching facts rather than suppressing them. It is worth reading; “These debates over symbols show us that Confederates were conscious of facing a contradiction, one we’re still contending with today: how to communicate a political belief in both freedom for whites and slavery for blacks. The task was impossible. This moment of early white nationalism gave birth to a civic narrative with an insurmountable task — making a visual declaration of the unspeakable.” .

    I mostly agree with you, my only exception that the statues and other symbols of the Confederacy should not be sanctioned by a representative government unless they are in the context of a museum or cemetery.

  2. George Entenman

     /  August 21, 2017


    I believe that statues like Silent Sam are worth keeping where they are so long as people bother to call for their removal. IMNSHO such protests are the best possible way to teach history, especially contemporary history, as Charlottesville has shown.

    I posted my thoughts to FB and got good comments:

  3. Don Evans

     /  August 21, 2017

    “Silent Sam” is indefensible, plain and simple.

    It is shameful that we continue to debate its placement rather than removing it. It has no place on public property, and is no more acceptable at its prominent spot at the entrance to the state university’s campus than the Confederate battle flag or any other overt racist symbol. Governments that represent all the people should not be party to exhibiting statues that insult and terrorize a good number of its citizens.

    And let’s remember that the most passionate debate about keeping the statue where it stands most often comes from white folks who are not threatened by its place. I suspect that were a number of black citizens given a say in what to do with it, they would quickly offer to remove it themselves.

    The statue has no place in polite society and does not trigger debate from those who pass it by — it only serves its intended purpose: to shamelessly remind blacks of who controls public life in this country.

    If folks want to memorialize the disgraceful time in our country’s history that the statue represents, let them do it on private property or in a cemetery, just not on land that is supported by taxpayers, white and black.

    And let us not overlook or ignore — the statue represents an extremely costly act of rebellion against the U.S. government, and it memorializes the traitors who perpetrated that rebellion. Do we really want to honor such traitors?