Local News

Protesters deface 'Silent Sam' statue amid call to honor lynching victims on UNC campus

Posted April 30, 2018 3:53 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:42 p.m. EDT

— At least one person was arrested Monday when a small group of people gathered Monday on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to protest the controversial "Silent Sam" statue.

The woman taken in custody dumped red paint on the statue, which was erected in 1913 to honor Confederate soldiers who had fought in the Civil War. Maya Little intentionally cut her hand and smeared her blood on the statue's pedestal before dousing the statue with red paint.

The impromptu protest occurred as a UNC-Chapel Hill professor is floating an idea to replace Silent Sam with a memorial to honor black lynching victims.

The statue stands in the university's McCorkle Place, which is considered a gateway to UNC.

"We get a lot of visitors here," said Altha Cravey, a geography professor at the school who is pushing an idea to supplant Silent Sam with a replica of a monument in the newly opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. She said she ultimately wants the Confederate monument to be removed from campus.

"Silent Sam is coming down sometime in the future," she said. "I just don't know when that is. Silent Sam does not belong here."

For now, however, she said she would like the lynching monument to stand near Silent Sam.

There have been growing calls to remove Silent Sam from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus over recent weeks.

Last year, there were dueling protests that advocated removing the statue and then another event where participants lobbied that the statue should remain.

The newmemorial museum in Alabama is attempting to change the conversation and honor those who were victims of lynching.

The facility has over 800 steel columns that contain the engraved names of lynching victims, most of them reported in the Jim Crow South of yesteryear.

The Orange County monument contains only one name, but UNC-Chapel Hill professor William Sturkey, who specializes in the Jim Crow South, says he's documented four lynchings in the years immediately after the Civil War. He said Sam obscures that dark history.

"It's really only part of the story that we hear now with this Confederate monument," he said. "It certainly silences the truth (and) that more complete story about the black victims."

It's not clear when a decision would be made by the university to begin the process of removing Silent Sam or add a lynching memorial. UNC has no say in removing the statue, but they can request the state Historical Commission to do it.

The history department on Wednesday released the following statement supporting Little:

As members of the History Department and the broader UNC campus community, we write to

"As members of the History Department and the broader UNC campus community, we write to reaffirm our belief that the 1913 monument known as Silent Sam is a festering wound on the campus. Abundant historical research documenting its racist origins makes clear there is no place for such a monument on a campus that claims to welcome all of its diverse members.  We support our student and colleague Maya Little and other members of the campus community who employ their right to use non-violent civil disobedience to protest this affront to the Carolina Way"