UNC proposes building for Confederate statue at campus edge

A statue of a Confederate soldier nicknamed Silent Sam stands on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 17, 2017. (Jonathan Drake | Reuters)

CHAPEL HILL — Protesters blocked Franklin Street in demonstrations Monday night after the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees proposed moving the toppled Silent Sam monument into a new $5 million building on the outskirts of campus. Administration presented the proposal was as an effort to balance security with strict state historical laws at a site a mile south of where the statue previously stood.

Chancellor Carol Folt presented it saying it was overwhelmingly approved by the campus trustees, though at least one voted no. The separate Board of Governors that oversees the statewide university system will have final say over the plan for the statue known as “Silent Sam.” The statewide board is expected to consider it at a meeting Dec. 14.


Folt proposed a site south of the university’s hospital and west of its basketball stadium to build a new history and education center that would house the statue that was torn down by protesters in August. Folt said the new building in the Odum Village area of campus would cost about $5 million. She said it was too early in the planning to discuss a timetable for construction.

The chancellor and several of the trustees said they would have preferred moving the statue off campus entirely, but they were restricted by state laws on Confederate statues and other monuments. That law sets strict criteria for moving such objects of remembrance, including that they are somewhere that’s similarly prominent and accessible to their original location.

“Silent Sam” had stood on a main campus quad from the time it was erected in 1913 until it was torn down by protesters who decried what they described as its racist origins.

The new building would also have room to hold classes and display other historical exhibits to contextualize the university’s history, Folt said.

The site was previously home to housing for graduate students and students with family. The university has been tearing down buildings there to prepare it for new phases of campus. The “Silent Sam” plan identifies it as a growth area for the campus.

The proposal comes as Duke University announced that a building on its campus will be stripped of benefactor Julian Carr’s name. The university said its Board of Trustees on Saturday voted to approve removing Carr’s name from a building where the history department is located.

Carr was a Confederate veteran and tobacco magnate who gave land where part of Duke was built, helping facilitate the university’s move to Durham. He gave a speech at the 1913 dedication of the Silent Sam confederate memorial during which he spoke of whipping a black woman.

The school’s history professors filed a formal request to remove Carr’s name earlier this year. A special committee and President Vincent E. Price both recommended removing Carr’s name.

Duke said the trustees had chosen to restore the building to its original name, the Classroom Building.