Local News

After Silent Sam toppling, what's next for the future of Confederate monuments?

Posted March 16, 2019 12:56 p.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2019 1:33 p.m. EDT

For more than 100 years, Silent Sam stood watch over the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but now there's only a patch of newly planted grass.

Other Confederate-era statues, like Silent Sam, have come down, but the controversy still stands.

Questions are now being raised about the legality of removing Confederate monuments around North Carolina in the wake of the Silent Sam toppling at UNC-CH.

Frank Powell, spokesman for the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, said it is illegal to remove confederate monuments under a law created in 2015.

That law, signed by then Gov. Pat McCrory, protected the removal of “objects of remembrance.”

This includes protection of Confederate monuments.

Ashley Popio, who was arrested for protesting the decision to keep three Confederate monuments at the state Capitol, said the 2015 law reflects the beliefs of North Carolinians.

“It's a visual representation that more than half of the population thinks (black people) are less than...it means our government and the large majority of people who live in these towns . . don’t care that we are still standing behind the rape and torture of our pasts.”

Powell disagrees.

According to Powell, the meaning of the monuments and other Confederate symbols has to do with Southern pride and identity.

“It probably upsets me more than the black community because that flag belong to my great-grandfather . . . and they carry it in battle and it’s stained with their blood,” said Powell.

When House Democrats tried to repeal the 2015 law that protects these monuments, Republicans suggested as a compromise of building African-American statues and revising plaques so that they add historical context.

“If they want to put up plaques that quote unquote contextualize the horrible statues that currently stand again anything’s better than nothing," Popio said. "But what really has to happen, is they have to come down.”

While this controversy continues, Fitz Brundage, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the discussions needs to expand beyond Confederate monuments.

In order to show true Southern pride, he said the discussion needs to include integrating segregated war memorials and acknowledging African-American war heroes missing from current monuments.

For more information on North Carolina Confederate monuments and their history, go here