'Silent Sam' Confederate Statue At UNC Vandalized

A controversial statue on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus depicting a Confederate soldier known as "Silent Sam" has been defaced with graffiti saying "BLACK LIVES MATTER," "KKK" and "MURDERER."

But not everyone on the Chapel Hill campus believes it's an act of vandalism.

"They've made a major improvement to the statue," UNC student Nikhil Umesh told WTVD, the local ABC station.

A university spokesman condemned the vandalism.

“We understand that the issue of race and place is both emotional and, for many, painful,” Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs Rick White said in a statement cited by the News & Observer. “We welcome all points of view, but damaging or defacing statues is not the way to go about it."

The statue, added to the campus in 1913, pays tribute to the 321 UNC alumni who died in the Civil War as well as all of the University's students who fought for the Confederacy. It's "silent" because while it depicts a soldier with a gun, he does not have a cartridge box for ammunition, according to the university.

While supporters say it honors the soldiers rather than slavery, even its unveiling was racially charged.

"100 yards from where we stand, less than 90 days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench, until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady,” industrialist Julian Carr said at the statue's dedication in 1913, according to the Daily Tar Heel.

The statue has since been the focus of protests, and many have called for its removal.

"As an African-American woman, who is a student here, that statue is the very statue that pretty much says I don't belong here, that I shouldn't be here," UNC student Kirsten Adams told WTVD. "It is a relevant statue, and so it should be there, on the other hand if we keep Silent Sam up, if we keep all these halls named after these racists, it's like we're celebrating the racism so you kind of have to draw a line somewhere."

In May, trustees voted to change the name of the school's Saunders Hall after years of controversy. The building had been named for William Saunders, a UNC graduate who fought in the Civil War and later became a Ku Klux Klan leader.

The university's "virtual museum" called the sculpture the most controversial on campus, and said a statue added in 2005 depicting slaves and servants "was created in part to act as a voice to counter the negative connotations of the Confederate Monument."

"Silent Sam" is now partially covered to hide the graffiti.

The vandalism is part of a wave of similar graffiti turning up on Confederate statues and memorials, including a marker near Duke University, a soldiers and sailors memorial in Virginia, and the statue of former South Carolina Gov. "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman, who was a white supremacist.

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