Published June 22nd
Understanding Sam The effort to increase awareness of the historical meaning of Silent Sam elicited four interesting letters in last Sunday’s CHN. Ariana Mangum believes that “Silent Sam should stay,” apparently unaware that the Real Silent Sam organization agrees with her! Yelena Francis remembers how communist dictators tore down statues of Russian czars and seems to think that the Real Silent Sam movement wants to tear down the statue of Silent Sam. (She’s mistaken.) I wonder if she worried about “rewriting history” when the statues of communist leaders were torn down? OK, I don’t really wonder. Sybil Austin Skakle wants us to understand exactly what Silent Sam “was meant to be.” She seems to believe that the statue was erected purely to commemorate UNC’s war dead, paying no attention to the fact that it was erected over 40 years after the war. If she’s interested in knowing why it was build at that time, I urge her to read the commemorative speech by James Carr, who raised the money to build the monument: his words will reveal some of the “real” motives behind the statue. Those poor kids who were used to fight the war were being used once again when that statue was built. Give credit to James Ward for at least realizing that the Real Silent Sam movement wants to add a plaque to the statue, not remove it. He heard someone say the word “evil” and concludes that there are plans to write that on the plaque. I don’t know what the wording will be on the plaque any more than he does, but I’m pretty sure that a plaque will improve our understanding of our history. George Entenman
Here’s the column:
By Sven Sonnenberg
I was sorry to see that in Mr. Entenman’s letter that he did not understand Ms. Francis’s message or did not reflect on it sufficiently. In her letter, Ms. Francis gives an example of the results when political correct zealots get to work suppressing or falsifying/modifying the past, and she is concerned that this does not happen to America − “the improving of our understanding of history.” Improve the schools and teach real history, not politically correct pap so that the grownups and graduates of universities do not have to bend over and get their knowledge from plaques. In further answering Mr. Entenman (CHN, June 23, bit.ly/18GCbU3), I would say, “let’s be ridiculous” and, following this “logic,” let’s be consistent in our effort to be ridiculously politically correct. God forbid insulting one or another group of population, so let’s place a plaque wherever we can. Let’s start from the Jefferson Memorial and place a plaque there with some inscription like “We respect this man in spite of him being from the family of rich plantation owners. His relatively luxurious life was all provided by the cruel exploitation of the slaves. And on top of everything, according to the rumors, one of them was the mother of his children in his later years, so, it might be sexual exploitation involved, too.” For political correct balance there should be a plaque erected on the wall of the Thomas Jefferson memorial. Let’s be further consistent. Let’s then go to the George Washington monument. There should be a plaque on it saying he was one of the richest men in Virginia and the owner of plantations, and numerous people were working for free on his land. Probably we should write about Washington’s bad relations with the Indians and different ideas he had about the territories, which historically belonged to the indigenous population. Let’s be politically correct and place those plaques all over the country – who knows, who and how can be offended with what and because of which reason? And what about Theodore Roosevelt with his famous “Speak softy and carry a big stick, and you will go far”? I bet everyone remembers his participation in the infamous safari in 1909 when hundreds of rare species of animals were killed under false pretence to supply the national museums with exhibits (and how many were consumed by the participants of that shameful expedition, nobody knows: it looks like there was not a single vegetarian there.) By the way, when running around the country installing plaques explaining past sins of the people the historical monuments were dedicated to, we should not forget Mount Rushmore. Let’s go there straight to install a big joint plaque to all those guys together in toto. Would it not be cheaper, Mr. Entenman?
It’s 1913, in the middle of the night, and a group of UNC workers have just brought a heavy load to McCorkle Place in a rented Mule-Haul. It’s the statue of a Confederate soldier. Quietly they place it on a pedestal, facing North, his rifle ready. The workers steal off into the night, leaving Silent Sam to greet the rising sun.
When the citizenry woke up, they found the new statue and knew that it simply represented the students who had fought for the Confederacy.
This of course is not what happened. In the UNC library you can find a 20-page speech by James Carr, the man who raised funds for the statue. He read these words when he dedicated Silent Sam.
Unlike the writers of the impassioned letters and recent op-ed in the CHN, James Carr knew that the statue did not simply honor students who had served during the war. Yet some people are aghast at a recent proposal to put a new plaque on the statue, a plaque which would “thoroughly explain the context in which the monument was erected.” This plaque would discuss race.
People opposed to the plaque claim that the statue has nothing to do with race. History, they believe, shows that the statue simply honors war veterans.
Why don’t we let James Carr himself settle the matter? He raised the money for the statue. He dedicated it. Who better than Carr to explain the history behind Silent Sam?
I propose that the plaque have the following sentences from pp 9-B and 9-C of James Carr’s dedication speech:
The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South — when the 'bottom rail was on top' all over the Southern states — and to-day, as a consequence, the purist strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States — Praise God. I trust that I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety 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, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with double-barreled shotgun under my head. Of course Silent Sam was intended to honor Confederate soldiers. But that's not all it was meant to do. The words "succeeding the war" refer to Reconstruction, not the war itself. The words "Anglo Saxon race" are self-explanatory. Sincerely,
My letter was published as a Guest Column on July 30, 2013.
Published August 2, 2013
Sinners and Sam After reading Mr. Entenman’s column (CHN, July 31, bit.ly/16exnRb) I was impressed by his passion for research aimed at heating up divisions in the community. Funny – the main reason for deep disgust toward Silent Sam is the character of the man who initiated its erection, as if the statue honors not veterans, but the horrible personality of the racist who raised the money. Isn’t it ridiculous to dig in the past to judge historical monuments? Take the Statue of Liberty. Do you know that the author of “Give me your tired …,” E. Lazarus, was a daughter of a rich businessman connected to Louisiana sugar cane plantations? Did you hear that while participating in the project, G. Eiffel took bribes from the Panama Canal Co. and was sentenced to two years in prison? And President Cleveland, who gave a speech at the unveiling, was not a good man: He paid $150 to someone to replace him in the Army during the Civil War, and he personally performed executions while being a sheriff in Erie County. And who collected money for the statue restoration? Yes, you guessed right – Mr. Lee Iacocca, responsible for a Ford Pinto gas tank design that resulted in burning to death a few people. Can you compare one sinner behind Silent Sam with the crowd of above-mentioned rascals? Mr. Entenman’s column is a well-calculated political provocation. I wish that instead of activists’ gatherings around Silent Sam calling for removal of the “shameful monument to old Southern racism,” the students could use their time studying history. Yelena Francis Chapel Hill
She’s really incapable of reading that the Real Silent Sam coalition does not want to tear down the statue.
The problem with the letter is the big lie: just repeat a lie long enough and people will believe it. But I’m tired of answering her.
The comments may not have been approved.
Both Yelena Francis and Sven Sonnenberg think they're providing arguments against understanding the history of Silent Sam. What are these arguments? That there are lots of terrible historical facts about the Statue of Liberty, George Washington, etc. How in the world does this argue against knowing the history of Silent Sam? Ms Francis actually says, "Isn’t it ridiculous to dig in the past to judge historical monuments?" No, it is not. The main danger of Francis' letter is that repeating a lie often enough makes people think that the lie is the truth. She says that unspecified "activists" are calling for the removal of Silent Sam. If you want to know what they are calling for, go to the website (http://realsilentsam.tumblr.com/) of the Real Silent Sam coalition, where you will read: "Our intent is not to remove monuments or revise history..." I'm tired of stating this simple fact in letters to the CHN, but Francis' willful refusal to understand simple English compels me to write this comment at least.