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More UNC students, alumni support Maya Little as lawmakers file bill to relocate “Silent Sam”

 

Graduate students and alumni from UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health are adding their names to the long list of those supporting Maya Little, the UNC graduate student arrested in April for defacing the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on the flagship campus at Chapel Hill.

In a statement the group of public health students and alumni calls out UNC Chancellor Carol Folt for not backing the effort to remove the statue, which is the only Confederate monument on a UNC campus.

“As public health graduate students, we are acutely aware of the negative effects of racism on the health and well-being of people of color,” the statement reads. “Silent Sam is a form of institutional racism, and poses undue mental and emotional harm to many who encounter it. We condemn Chancellor Folt and her administration’s willful inaction in the face of ongoing, violent, and racist threats against Maya.”

Meanwhile, in the current legislative session, several Democratic state lawmakers have filed a bill to relocate Silent Sam.

House Bill 1030/Senate Bill 764 was filed last week. The bill proclaims that due to the “recent acts of vandalism” the statue needs to be moved to a permanent indoor location somewhere on campus. It’s a compromise solution some in the movement to remove the statue from campus entirely say does not go far enough – but others argue it would keep students and faculty from having to encounter the statue every day.

Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, took to Twitter over the weekend to argue for the relocation.

Leaders of the GOP majority in the General Assembly and members of the Republican dominated UNC Board of Governors have opposed moving the statue, arguing instead for more security and more harsh punishment for those involved in protests that might damage it.

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UNC grad student on the misuse of Classics in support of Silent Sam

A view of the base of the Silent Sam statue after UNC graduate student Maya Little covered it with red paint and her own blood.

When UNC History student Maya Little was arrested last month and charged with defacing the Silent Sam Confederate monument,  students and faculty in her department expressed their support for her.

Now graduate students in the UNC Classics Department have done the same.

In an essay this week for the Society of Classical Studies, UNC graduate student Kelly McArdle talks about the Little’s case, the history of Silent Sam and the way in which the history and context of the statue has been distorted. She writes about the monument’s notorious dedication speech made by prominent UNC alumn, prominent industrialist and white supremacist Julian Carr and the way in which it drew on classical themes to justify and romanticize the Confederacy – and what that perception means today.

From her piece:

As students of antiquity, we who signed the statement understand the value of preserving historical monuments and artifacts, but we also believe that those monuments and artifacts must be grounded in historical events and eras, rather than being presented as unbiased memorials of the past. Historian and UNC professor Lloyd Kramer recently wrote in response to the “Silent Sam” controversy, “Monuments convey historical interpretations rather than historical facts.” We agree that “Silent Sam” conveys a particular interpretation of southern history. Given that Carr both lauded the Confederate preservation of “the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon” race in the South and bragged about the fact that he himself “horse-whipped a negro wench” 100 yards from where “Silent Sam” stands, we who signed the statement believe the statue conveys a historical interpretation that glorifies the subjugation of black people. By allowing “Silent Sam” to remain in a prominent position on our campus, the university administration allows that interpretation to take precedence over historical fact. As Little wrote in an open letter to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt:

“Today I have thrown my blood and red ink on this statue as a part of the continued mission to provide the context that the Chancellor refuses to. Chancellor Folt, if you refuse to remove the statue, then we will continue to contextualize it. Silent Sam is violence; Silent Sam is the genocide of black people; Silent Sam is antithetical to our right to exist. You should see him the way that we do, at the forefront of our campus covered in our blood.”

We who signed the statement stand in full support of Maya Little’s’s forcible contextualization of “Silent Sam,” which shows the monument for what it truly is: a vestige of and shrine to white supremacy. As long as “Silent Sam” remains on campus, it will necessarily lack the contextual information needed for viewers to understand the circumstances of its dedication and its intended meaning. We believe we must continue to provide that context until the university administration relocates the statue.

Moving forward, we who signed the statement plan to continue speaking out about “Silent Sam” and institutional racism on our campus, including the 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings, many of which are named for Confederate supporters and white supremacists. We are committed to defending Maya Little, using our expertise in the study and preservation of the ancient world to show that her action was a dedicated historian’s necessary response to a white-washed version of history. We are glad to have the continued support of our faculty in this endeavor. Our hope is to see “Silent Sam” moved to a local museum or historical site, such as UNC’s Ackland Art Museum or the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, where future historians and proper signage can provide visitors with the statue’s proper context. Such a gesture would be only the beginning of acknowledging and rectifying the racist legacy of our university. Our continued involvement also speaks to our desire to rectify part of the legacy of our discipline. We hope always to learn from the past, but never to romanticize it.

Read the whole essay here.

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Students, faculty in UNC History department support student charged with Silent Sam

Earlier this week Maya Little, a graduate student in UNC’s History department, took the movement to remove the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue on the Chapel Hill campus to a new level – defacing the statue with red paint to which she added her own blood.

Little, who released a statement calling her demonstration a necessary act of civil disobedience, was arrested.

She now faces charges of defacing, striking, marking or injuring a public statue, according to the Orange County Magistrate’s Office. Her first court appearance is Monday.

A number of students and faculty in UNC’s History department are standing behind Little and decrying the inaction of the school’s administration in the face of pressure to remove – or even vocally oppose –  the statue.

Sarah Shields, a professor in the History Department and its director of Graduate Studies, sent the following letter to Chancellor Carol Folt, the provost and the direcotr of campus security:

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. Read more

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“Silent Sam” statue defaced at protest on UNC campus

A student involved in the protest movement against “Silent Sam,” the Confederate statue on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, defaced the monument at a protest Monday.

Maya Little has taken her protest of the statue from the administration to the UNC Board of Governors. On Monday, she said she’d had enough.

Little, a doctoral student in UNC’s History department, smeared the statue with what appeared to be red paint in a protest streamed live on Facebook.

Little was arrested and charged with defacing, striking, marking or injuring a public statue, according to the Orange County Magistrate’s Office.

She was released on a promise to appear in court. Her first court appearance will be on Monday, May 7 at 9 a.m.

Anticipating her arrest for what she called an act of civil disobedience, released a written statement Monday afternoon. That statement appears below in its entirety.

“I have been an organizer for the Silent Sam Sit-In since September 2017, when campus police confiscated the belongings of the 24 hour occupiers. Every weekday we provide context around the statue. This is an opportunity to teach. It is also our duty to continue the struggle against white supremacy that countless others have led since black students have been on this campus. The statue, a symbol of UNC’s commitment to white supremacy, has been defaced and protested since 1968. Yet the statue remains on campus 50 years later. These last 5 years Carol Folt has been chancellor and she has not taken a single step towards removing Silent Sam. The armed, Confederate soldier dedicated and built by racists during Jim Crow has remained. However, the dedication and courage of each successive group of students fighting for racial equality at UNC has made our message louder and clearer. The threat of Neonazis and white supremacists marching on our communities has made it more urgent. Read more

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Charges dropped against UNC professor who protested Silent Sam

Dr. Altha Cravey is asked to leave a September event with UNC Chancellor Carol Folt for holding up a protest sign.

Dr. Altha Cravey, a tenured professor of Geography at UNC-Chapel Hill, has never been afraid to take a stand.

A regular at campus protests, Cravey has been thrown out of  University events for holding up protest signs and criticized for helping to disrupt meetings of the UNC Board of Governors to oppose their policies.

Cravey doesn’t spook easily. But but she admits that this week, before her citation for throwing a rock at the controversial “Silent Sam” Confederate statue on the Chapel Hill campus was dismissed — she was was stressed.

“I never threw a rock, there was no evidence that I did and I told them when I was cited that I hadn’t,” Cravey said in an interview Wednesday. “I had been laughing it off until the night before the decision — and then my body let me know how stressed out I was. When they dropped the charges, it was a great relief.”

Cravey said her lawyer, Kellie Mannette, was able to provide photographs that cleared her and the matter was dropped Tuesday morning.

A good thing too, Cravey said, as the provost’s office recently asked for a meeting with her to explain that if convicted she would have to report it to the university within five days or she would be fired.

“I think they were trying to intimidate me,” Cravey said. “I usually don’t have any occasion to meet a provost.”

On December 15 the UNC Board of Governors will have a one-day meeting at which they are expected to pass a new university speech policy. Many students, faculty and staff, including Cravey, say they worry it may be used against peaceful protests and could create a chilling effect on critical speech.

“I think it certainly will be used against us,” Cravey said. “I think a lot of this conversation came out of the reaction to us disrupting the Board of Governors meeting when [UNC President] Margaret Spellings was being pushed into the president’s position.”

Cravey said she won’t stop speaking her mind, but she and others are aware of the potential dangers.