(August 22, 2018) Notwithstanding that the majority of Americans want Confederate statues to remain standing, two days ago a student mob illegally toppled the 105 year-old Silent Sam infantryman sculpture at the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina. A couple of self-appointed expert groups encouraged student hostility toward Sam. One was the university’s faculty and administrators. The other was the “Make It Right” initiative of the Independent Media Institute.
[Learn about Civil War and Reconstruction: My Amazon Author Page]
UNC’s History Department previously announced that it wanted the statue removed because Sam’s 1913 “creators . . . shared a veneration of slavery . . . and the ideology of white supremacy.” In truth, it’s more likely that Sam’s “creators” chose the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War to honor the rapidly fading numbers of Confederate veterans—not for their supposed “veneration of slavery,” but for defending their homes against invaders. Consider, for example, that the former Confederate states had outlawed slavery in 1865 under leaders of their own choosing, three years before the Republican Party imposed corrupt carpetbag regimes upon the region. UNC’s History Department also suggests that Sam was not representative of North Carolina’s residents during the Civil War because “many ” in the state did not support the Confederacy. Nonetheless, North Carolina supplied more Confederate troops than any other state, except possibly Tennessee.
Finally, UNC’s History Department fails to mention a couple of points that are contrary to the “veneration of slavery” trope. First, North Carolina did not secede in order to protect slavery. She remained Union-loyal until the federal government required that she contribute soldiers to coerce the seven Gulf states that had earlier seceded back into the Union. Second, less than 6% of North Carolinians owned slaves distributed among only 29% of her families.*
Earlier this year the “Make it Right” initiative announced the targeting of ten Confederate monuments for removal. Silent Sam was second on the list behind the Dallas Confederate War Memorial. According to project manager Kali Holloway, “Confederate monuments were never about recognizing history, but were instead put up to ensure . . . a white supremacist future. . . With few exceptions, these structures were hastily built at the dawn of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement to intimidate and terrorize African-American communities as they struggled toward racial equality and political empowerment.”
Holloway’s assertions rely upon data supplied by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showing that most statues were erected during the decade of the 1910s and in the early 1960s. The true reasons for the statue concentration in those years, however, is that they represented the fiftieth and centennial anniversaries of the war, respectively.
Holloway also wants to remove the Confederate engravings at Stone Mountain, Georgia and the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery.
Jan Frel manages “Make it Right’s” parent company where he has worked for fifteen years. Prior to that he was on Democrat Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign. During much of that period the Independent Media Institute owned AlterNet and was funded by many charitable organizations. Among them were the gift-giving foundations of Craig’s List and the founders of Sara Lee and RealNetworks.
* J. G. Randall and David Donald The Civil War and Reconstruction (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1961), 68