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The Department of Classics endorses and supports the following resolutions and statements made in response to the Board of Governors’ deposition of the Confederate Memorial known as Silent Sam.

Resolution passed by the UNC-CH’s Faculty Council on 6 December 2019

While we continue to support the permanent removal of the confederate monument known as Silent Sam from campus, we condemn the settlement that gives the statue and $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Such a settlement supports white supremacist activity and therefore violates the university’s mission as well as its obligations to the state.

Statement issued by the Chairs of Fine Arts and Humanities Departments on 7 December 2019

The Charter for the University of North Carolina begins, “Whereas in all well regulated Governments, it is the indispensable duty of every Legislature to consult the Happiness of a rising generation and endeavor to fit them for an honourable discharge of the social duties of life, by paying the strictest attention to their education.” Penned in 1789, these words remain the unequivocal charge to the faculty of the University of North Carolina to do the work of education. As knowledge and understanding grow with each “rising generation,” society advances and the full contours of “happiness” and the “social duties of life” evolve.

There is nothing easy about this work. It has its foes. It is complicated and it is messy – but it is, as the charter’s authors recognized, “indispensable.” It is also the labor of the long game to build a collective good grounded in justice, enfranchisement, equity, and ethics. The charter’s authors (white males, property owners, and slaveholders all) could not envision a University that looks like UNC today – nor could they grasp the realities and challenges we face. Our university is not theirs, nor will it ever be again. It has greater responsibilities. We imagine a university where social justice is the norm, but never taken for granted.

Recent and extraordinary events surrounding the Board of Governor’s deposition of the Confederate memorial “Silent Sam” and the levy of a $2.5 million “fine” on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to finance the continued abuse of our core mission cannot go unanswered. Accordingly, we call upon our campus leaders to commit themselves to the long arc of realizing social justice through education by the creation of an endowment in the amount of $10 million that will underwrite teaching the histories of enslavement, discrimination, and social justice movements as they unfolded and continue to unfold on our campus and in our community as well as support scholarships and programs for historically marginalized peoples and communities. It is only through direct and sustained engagement with our students, and “strictest attention to their education” that we can meet our Charter’s call to teach each “rising generation” the “social duties of life.” We can do nothing less.

Statement issued by the Council of Chairs in the College of Arts and Sciences on 11 December 2019

The undersigned members of the Council of Chairs of the College of Arts and Sciences of UNC Chapel Hill condemn the decision by the Board of Governors to transfer resources to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to preserve the monument known as Silent Sam. The decision to compensate this group, with its false interpretation of history, contradicts the core values of this university and its mission to pursue truth and knowledge.

We call upon the leadership of the University of North Carolina to take bold action and commit substantial resources to promote diversity on our campus and to endeavor to repair the harm that the above settlement has caused to our community.

Department of Classics Statement on Silent Sam on 27 September 2017

The study of Classics includes reading texts and monuments in their historical contexts, understanding the use and abuse of rhetoric, and analyzing both the stated goals of historical figures and evidence that may point to ulterior motives. Our department finds the evidence quite clear that the statue of a Confederate soldier standing in a position of honor at the entrance to our beautiful campus was both meant to be, and has served as, a monument to white supremacy.

Whatever one thinks of the motives of the common soldier in the Civil War, the evidence is indisputable that the statue was erected in 1913 as part of the white power movement of the Jim Crow era. Also beyond argument are the shameful details surrounding the establishment of the statue in Chapel Hill, from the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s overt support of white supremacy, to Julian Carr’s boastful remark at the monument’s dedication that he had “horse-whipped a negro wench” for disrespecting “a Southern lady.” It may be—indeed, must be—asked what values and meaning this monument has on our campus today. Whom does it welcome? Whom does it warn? Whose interests does it serve? Whose does it suppress?  History informs these questions, but they can be answered only in the present.

Even if famously “silent,” a single monument can speak volumes. As students of a distant and different past, we in the Department of Classics are particularly sensitive to the significance of historical monuments. We recognize a statue’s ability to encapsulate and project a coded narrative about the past and to project its values onto the present, both reflecting and reinforcing a particular ideology.  We understand, too, that context is crucial to the meanings of all monuments. These issues are not new. The Confederate monument’s dedication in 1913 says much about the people and habits of the Jim Crow south. Its eventual removal, in turn, will say much about the values and temperament of those who could no longer bear to live under its shadow.

For further information about the UNC-CH Confederate Monument, see the following links (with thanks to the Department of English and Comparative Literature).

More information about UNC-CH Confederate Monument

Endorsed unanimously by the faculty of the Department of Classics, 27 September 2017

One Response to “Department of Classics Statement on the UNC-Chapel Hill Confederate Monument”

  1. John H. Starks, Jr.

    Thank you all for this firm, moral stand for justice.

    John H. Starks, Jr., Chair, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Binghamton University, State University of New York
    Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies
    UNC-CH, PhD 2004; BA, Washington and Lee University , Lexington VA

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