Learn the History

When I heard Chancellor Folt blithely announce the plans to spend $5.3 million to build a home for a Confederate monument that glorifies the South’s willingness to go to war to preserve slavery, I wondered whether anyone had briefed her on the battle to build the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black History and Culture.

UNC gave permission in 1993 for the Stone Center to be built after students, faculty and alumni lobbied and staged demonstrations for at least two years to get UNC administrators to understand the importance of having a free-standing black history center. But the building didn’t open until 2004, because the university didn’t include any funding for it. The entire $9 million price was paid for by private donors. Once the building was built, UNC paid for technology for its classrooms.

Read the story here: http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/sonja-haynes-stone-center-black-culture-history/. It’s long, but goes a long way toward understanding why so many people object to UNC’s decision to allocate so much money so readily for a white history building.

Fortunately, the Board of Governors agreed that constructing a separate building to commemorate a past that most of us are ashamed of would not be a wise use of funds. Board chair Harry Smith said the board needs to “go back to the drawing board … and try to get it right.”

No need for the drawing board, really. UNC and its Board of Governors need to understand that while Silent Sam was installed at a time when the majority on campus believed that black citizens should not have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities that their white counterparts have, that belief no longer prevails.

The Confederate statue had its day, and that day is now past. Pack it in storage, or ship it to the state history museum in Raleigh, or auction it off and use the money for scholarships for students who have had to overcome obstacles the rest of us have not. But do not display it anywhere on campus.

— Nancy Oates

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Next Post
Leave a comment


  1. Plurimus

     /  December 19, 2018

    Pointing fingers over separating white and black history flies in the face of why the Silent Sam statue was offensive to so many in the first place, eh? Like it or not, this statue is part of our shared history and denying it risks the repetition of some pretty awful behavior.

    Personally, I think the manner in which the statue was removed, as was the universities refusal to remove it gracefully is worthwhile debate. Regardless of that debate, putting it back would be a supreme insult and a giant step backward for a university that prides itself on a place where “…..students develop a voice for critical thought and the courage to guide change”.

    That said, it feels as if we risk missing the “teachable moments” and chances for longer term reconciliation and education that are so often lost in these emotional storms.

    If history and education are gifts from one generation to another (….and yes, they go both ways), then the Silent Sam statue belongs in a museum along with a serious discussion of why it is a representation of a failed ideology, and also acknowledgement of the lives that were sacrificed for that failed ideology. This statue should be placed next to statues of people who exposed and ultimately defeated that ideology and explain why. It should be part of the curriculum, not forgotten simply because people don’t like it.

    “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” ― George Orwell

  2. Nancy

     /  December 21, 2018

    I agree we need to tell our history lest we forget it, as our current U.S. president has in so many areas. We don’t want to slip back, and human nature being what it is, we must be constantly vigilant. But we can still tell our history, even without the statue. If the statue only serves as a flashpoint for protest, then it needs to be sent off to some place that is not conducive to protests.

  3. Plurimus

     /  December 21, 2018

    I agree. It seems that the conversation is still lost in rage and grief; even now. I think some that want to profit from exploiting those feelings for their own motives, are doing so.

    The question at hand must be, how does everyone get to a place of mutual respect and move forward in the 21st century?

  4. If we’re to be accurate, Silent Sam was erected more to commemorate the KKK and Jim Crow than the advertised purpose of remembering the Confederate dead.

    I believe that there’s a place for it on campus – in fact the exact place it currently “stands” with these changes: remove the pedestal, bury Silent Sam in the hole that is left that leaves its eyes an inch or two above-ground.

    This will fit the letter of the law and meet those “New Jim Crow” Board of Governors members’ demands.

    Burying it also will keep it safe enough from vandalism.

    Bonus, it will sit about 6″ below the very anemic memorial to the thousands of slaves who built UNC which sits a few short yards away which is a small acknowledgement of their relative importance.