Silent Sam

On Dec. 4, 2019, UNC Chapel Hill’s notorious Silent Sam statue was sold for $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

The bronze statue of a Confederate soldier was unveiled in 1913 at UNC Chapel Hill to represent the more than 1,000 students who died from fighting in the Civil War.

The statue was funded by the University, alumni and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was coined “Silent Sam” because the figure carried no ammunition and could not fire his gun. 

Controversy around the statue traces back to the 1960s when it was vandalized several times. Since then, the figure has continued to undergo scrutiny. 

In 2018, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt said she would not have the statue removed so long as it was not prohibited by state law. 

Many UNC Chapel Hill students expressed their opposition to the statue by joining groups and organizations, like the active Twitter account “Move Silent Sam.” On Aug. 20, 2018 the Silent Sam statue was toppled down by protestors and later moved to a safe location by university authorities. 

On Aug. 31, 2018 Chancellor Folt issued a statement saying, “The statue’s original location was a cause for division and a threat to public safety,” and that she was seeking input on a plan for “a safe, legal and alternative new location.” 

The plaque and the base of the statue were also removed in the beginning of 2019 and shortly after, Chancellor Folt announced her resignation. 

A new development regarding the future of the statue’s whereabouts was recently decided on Dec. 4. 

Silent Sam is now in the hands of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), an organization that has been provided $2.5 million through a charitable trust implemented by the UNC system to transport and preserve the monument. 

“I think selling the statue will have a larger impact on the students who were there on campus when the statue was removed,” UNC Chapel Hill freshman Molly Sytz said. “As for new students who were never on campus when the statue was up, I don’t think we will be impacted as much as others.”

This settlement came about when a judge entered a consent judgement in a lawsuit that had been filed by the North Carolina Division SCV. The lawsuit was filed against the UNC Board of Governors in regards to the placing of the statue. 

The settlement could, however, lead to UNC system money funding a new museum and headquarters for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which some believe may encompass racist overtones and thus raise controversy. 

Recently, the Daily Tar Heel, UNC Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, has decided to sue the Board of Governors over a lack of transparency in the settlement. 

The lawsuit claims that the defendants violated the North Carolina Uniform Declaratory Judgements Act and North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law and asks the Board of Governors to abolish the settlement with SVC. 

Not all members of the SCV are pleased with the settlement, either. Members in opposition to the settlement have expressed desires to quell the deal as well as return the money. 

A common concern shared by these opposing members is that the current settlement will provide more power to what they see as the SCV’s most controversial wing. This wing is a mechanized cavalry, a special interest group within the organization. Commander of North Carolina’s chapter of SCV, Kevin Stone, has been a member of this motorcycle group for 10 years.  

The interest group’s website reads, “Members of the SCV are most welcome and encouraged to join even if they do not have a motorcycle (dismounted cavalry) at the time of submitting the SCV Mechanized Cavalry Membership Application.” 

Some members have voiced that Stone does not care about what the statue even stands for and sees the money from the settlement as a chance to build himself and his biker gang “massive headquarters.” 

Despite these rumors and speculations the SCV has not yet revealed whether or not the group has plans of where the statue will reside.

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