A statue honoring University of North Carolina alumni who died for the Confederacy was vandalized this weekend, with “KKK” and “MURDERER” painted on it.
The bronze and marble Confederate Monument, known as “Silent Sam” because the soldier depicted holds a gun but no ammunition, was erected in 1913 after being commissioned by the Daughters of the Confederacy. A side panel shows a woman symbolizing the state urging a student to drop his books to take up arms.
It has long been controversial at the state’s flagship public university, which in 2005 added another sculpture nearby honoring enslaved African Americans.
But the history of the South is particularly raw now, in the days after a gunman shot nine people at a Charleston, S.C. church, after posing with Confederate symbols. “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” Dylann Roof, who stands accused of the crime, allegedly told his victims.
The South Carolina legislature is expected to debate on Monday what to do about the Confederate flag that flies over the Statehouse there. All across the country, people have been arguing about whether the signs of the Civil War are symbols of racism or history, whether they should be removed or whether that amounts to a whitewashing of the past.
At UNC, students have pushed to change some of the school’s historic spots, most recently when a group demanded that a building honoring a former Ku Klux Klan leader be named to honor a black alumna instead, the author Zora Neale Hurston.
Similar debates have played out at other schools, including the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia, which recently named a new dorm after an enslaved couple who rose to leadership positions after Emancipation.
“We understand that the issue of race and place is both emotional and, for many, painful,” UNC spokesman Rick White said in statement.
“Carolina is working hard to ensure we have a thoughtful, respectful and inclusive dialogue on the issue. The extensive discussions with the Carolina community this past year by the Board of Trustees and University leadership, and the work we will be doing to contextualize the history of our campus is a big part of advancing those conversations.
“We welcome all points of view, but damaging or defacing statues is not the way to go about it.”
The incident set off a debate online.
Another person wrote, “Attacking Silent Sam bothers me… since the south was invaded and most southerners did not own slaves!”
The graffiti was covered up before it was cleaned.
Even that sparked comments.