A group of about 100 gathered at the "Silent Sam" statue on the UNC campus to protest, seeking for it to be removed from the school grounds, on August 31, 2017. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
A group of about 100 gathered at the "Silent Sam" statue on the UNC campus to protest, seeking for it to be removed from the school grounds, on August 31, 2017. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Orange County

Former UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser: ‘Silent Sam needs to come down.’

By Colin Warren-Hicks

cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com

September 12, 2017 01:50 PM

UPDATED September 18, 2017 07:05 PM

Chapel Hill

Former Chancellor James Moeser joined a group of academics at UNC-Chapel Hill Monday night calling for Silent Sam to be removed from the university’s campus.

A panel discussed the Confederate statue at a public forum in Hyde Hall titled “Why Is Silent Sam Still Standing?

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Associate Professor of African American Art John Bowles attended the event and said every panelist opposed Silent Sam's continued presence on the McCorkle Place quad looking out onto Franklin Street.

Bowles tweeted Moeser’s comments Tuesday morning: Former @UNCchancellor James Moeser @iah_unc: "Silent Sam must come down & it must come down now."

On Aug. 24, Moeser, the university’s ninth chancellor from 2000-08, wrote about the statue on his Facebook page.

“I too have changed my mind about Silent Sam,” he wrote. “I was, for a long time, arguing for contextualization and preservation, and I think if UNC had acted on this idea a couple of years ago, we might have been able to hold our course. But now events have passed us by.

“These monuments have been adopted by Nazis and their fellow travelers as icons for white supremacy,” Moeser continued. “Silent Sam needs to come down. Now.”

Emotions run high at 'Silent Sam' protest at UNC

Tempers flare and emotions run high in August during a rally and march calling for the removal of the Confederate statue known as 'Silent Sam' on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

Julia Wall, Ethan Hyman and Chuck Liddy jwall@newsobserver.com, ehyman@newsobserver.com and cliddy @newsobserver.com

Monday’s discussion was sponsored by the Departments of African, African American and Diaspora Studies; American Studies; Anthropology, Communication, and Geography; the Center for the Study of the American South; Institute for African American Research; Institute for the Arts and Humanities; The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History; UNC African Studies Center; Carolina Public Humanities.

In a statement on its website, the Department of Anthropology wrote that Silent Sam’s continued presence resonates in a powerful and negative way.

“Standing just outside of Alumni Hall – home to the Department of Anthropology– this towering statue stands as a declaration of white supremacy,” the statement says in part. “For some, it fosters an atmosphere of fear that goes against the University’s emphasis on inclusivity. A rhetoric that celebrates diversity will always ring hollow when accompanied by a standing embodiment of oppression.

UNC’s Silent Sam has long been a flash point

The Confederate statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus was a point of friction and protest long before the Charlottesville rally in support of a statue of Robert E. Lee turned tragically violent and left three people dead, thrusting the issue into the national spotlight.

Lynn Bonner video, N&O file photos Video produced by John Hansen

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks

Statement from UNC-CH Department of Anthropology

“Anthropology is a discipline of engagement with social issues that matter. As such, anthropologists are acutely aware of inequality and the way that systems of power marshal words, symbols, and even silences to marginalize and oppress. That’s precisely what has happened for generations on UNC’s campus, where a monument to the Confederacy – and thus a monument to the oppression of African Americans and their earlier exclusion from these halls of higher education – commanded a central place. Standing just outside of Alumni Hall – home to the Department of Anthropology– this towering statue stands as a declaration of white supremacy. For some, it fosters an atmosphere of fear that goes against the University’s emphasis on inclusivity. A rhetoric that celebrates diversity will always ring hollow when accompanied by a standing embodiment of oppression.

“Anthropology is a discipline grounded in careful observation and conversation. As anthropologists, we hear the testimonies of offense and experienced marginalization that pervade our campus and community. We recognize the power of symbols to intimidate, to silence the oppressed, and to empower those who would use fear as a weapon of privilege. Unfortunately, the Confederate monument resonates powerfully in this negative way. There is no place on a university campus for a memorial that uncritically references the institution of slavery. The university’s commitment to inclusivity demands that we act to insure the safety of all, particularly the brave persons whose daily presence at the monument gives voice to our collective conscience and the need to contextualize the meaning of this Confederate statue.

“A commitment to acknowledging our shared humanity is a foundational tenet of Anthropology. From this tenet, it follows that a monument to divisiveness and racial exclusivity should have no home in McCorkle Place.”