Just over a year after the Confederate monument was pulled down by protesters, the University of North Carolina System announced the statue commonly known as “Silent Sam” will be given to a Confederate history group. A $2.5 million charitable trust will go toward its care and preservation – a move that angered critics of the statue.
The UNC system announced Wednesday that Silent Sam would be given to the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which will now own all rights, title and interest in the monument as part of a legal settlement after the group sued the system, according to the news release.
Though it’s not stated where exactly the statue will go, the settlement states that the statue cannot be located in any of the 14 counties containing a UNC system school.
UNC-Chapel Hill, where the monument was previously located, will fund a charitable trust of $2.5 million using non-state funds to be used for the upkeep of the monument and “potentially a facility to house and display the monument,” the release stated.
In an email obtained by CNN that was sent to students and faculty, Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz offered his “deepest appreciation” to members of UNC’s Board of Governors and the system’s interim president following the announcement, thanking them for “resolving this matter.”
Though the decision means the statue will no longer be on the university’s campus, some have criticized the decision to allot $2.5 million.
“I’m glad the statue is finally going to be off UNC’s campus but … we’re going to pay $2.5M so that a Confederate sympathy group can build it a permanent memorial?” state Rep. Graig Meyer said on Twitter. Meyer represents parts of Orange County, where UNC-Chapel Hill is located.
Silent Sam, and the controversy surrounding it
Silent Sam, a bronze statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier with a rifle in hand, previously stood in an area overlooking what is commonly called the Upper Quad on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
In the last few years, the statue became wildly controversial, with both students and faculty claiming that it stood for a racist past. The statue continued to draw more and more protesters from both sides of the debate, leading to the stationing of campus safety officers outside the monument.
Despite public outcry, the pubic, state-funded UNC-Chapel Hill did not have the authority to remove the statue on its own. And in 2015, the state passed a law preventing the removal, relocation or alterations of state-owned monuments, memorials and works of art – effectively protecting Confederate monuments from any kind of removal.
In August 2018, when it became clear the Legislature would not remove the statue, protesters took the matter into their own hands – pulling Silent Sam down.
The event launched the university into a conundrum of what to do with the fallen statue. Because of public safety concerns, former Chancellor Carol Folt said the monument could not be returned to its previous mount.
At the time, the university previously planned to build a $5.3 million indoor facility on campus for the statue, but the plan was not approved.