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Lawsuit threatened unless UNC-Chapel Hill removes 'Silent Sam'

Posted September 13

Barrier placed around UNC 'Silent Sam' statue

— A law firm on Wednesday urged the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remove the "Silent Sam" Confederate soldier statute from campus or risk being sued for fostering a racially hostile learning environment.

In a letter sent to UNC President Margaret Spellings, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and members of the UNC Board of Governors and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, Hampton Dellinger, a Durham attorney representing 12 UNC-Chapel Hill students, a professor and the Black Law Students Association, said the statue violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

Students have rallied several times in recent weeks, calling for Silent Sam's removal, but Folt has said the school lacks the legal authority to act because of a 2015 state law that prevents removing or altering a public monument without state approval.

"[T]hat position is wrong as it ignores UNC’s overriding obligation to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws. UNC is not only free to remove Silent Sam in order to adhere to federal law, it is legally obligated to do so," Dellinger wrote in the letter. "Simply put: UNC’s state law excuse is an insufficient response to a breach of federal law. As a result, you must stop violating federal civil rights laws and remove Silent Sam."

Campus spokesman Joel Curran said Wednesday the students raised questions about federal civil rights law that will need to be addressed.

Leaving the statue in the middle of campus is tantamount to being "deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile learning environment" in violation of federal civil rights laws, Dellinger wrote.

"UNC’s decision to disobey federal law by allowing the racial animus perpetuated by Silent Sam to continue constitutes grounds for legal action," he wrote.


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  • John Johnson Sep 15, 1:18 p.m.
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    To Hate Any of these Statutes, Flags Etc. Is a Hatred for All Veterans, Past and Present, Who "Served" This Country.. Paid Foreign Anti-American Protestors.. Go Home.. This is America, Cant Pick and Choose. It is What it Was & Is!! Offensive, Stop Welfare, Food Stamps, Free Housing & Education...

  • Deborah Turner Sep 14, 4:00 p.m.
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    That war was about White Men of the North killing White Men in the South. The Men of the South were outnumbered nearly 3 to 1. Lincoln was a tyrant and is the only U.S. President to order his Generals to wage war on civilians that also lived on American soil. He left many thousands of people in the South homeless and starving including women, children and the old....Black and White. If these monuments are removed....then any reference to Lincoln or the Union Army should also be removed.

  • Robert Swiger Sr. Sep 14, 5:15 a.m.
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    This is stupid. The courts should toss this case right out

  • Chris Grimes Sep 14, 12:28 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Steve, I did read the whole article, along with UNC's description of the statue (http://www.unc.edu/interactive-tour/landmarks/silent-sam/) -- it's in honor of students who left to fight for the confederacy. Nothing about union soldiers. But the more telling issue, evidence of the white supremacy agenda behind Silent Sam, is the timing of its installation -- during the spike of Confederate memorials between 1900-1920, shortly after Plessy vs. Ferguson, at the height of Jim Crow. There was another spike during the Civil Rights era. Neither spike was a coincidence. Finally, how is this a liberal vs. conservative issue? Repub. Nikki Haley removed the confederate flag from the SC statehouse (said it never should have been there) after the Charleston massacre, and Congress just unanimously passed an anti-supremacist resolution in response to Trump's recent comments. Moving Silent Sam not liberal or conservative, just decent & appropriate

  • Arron Lee Sep 13, 9:37 p.m.
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    Good point Jerry! It is just the "fad" now to set chaos in motion. It is actually the protesting and marching that is setting us back in time.

  • Ralph Savary Sep 13, 9:34 p.m.
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    My goodness, what does it matter? It's water under the bridge. After 150 yrs one would think it's time to move on!

  • Arron Lee Sep 13, 9:33 p.m.
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    "sued for fostering a racially hostile learning environment." Wow, never heard that law before. And just how long has UNC been in existence? Suddenly, it is considered a racially hostile learning environment? Give us all a break. Get over it, please!

  • Linda Tally Sep 13, 8:38 p.m.
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    Artistically, there's nothing to recommend Silent Sam. He's a mass-produced piece of statuary that constitutes a large version of the tacky salt and pepper shakers found in any second hand tourist shop. If that's what a segment of the NC population wants to honor (in lieu of anything better), it can certainly go up on another piece of public property - the city dump.

  • Steve Clayton Sep 13, 7:42 p.m.
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    Hey Chris I see you only posted part of the article.You forgot the part where the statue was there to honor the students from UNC that died in the Civil War from both the north and the south.Oh but that doesn't fit your liberal agenda does it.

  • Deborah Turner Sep 13, 7:07 p.m.
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    Have you ever researched the quotes President Lincoln made about the Black race ?