Boiling down this issue to offer only two options — tear it down or leave it untouched — shows a complete lack of imagination for the possibilities of a truly inclusive public history on this campus.
The Real Silent Sam Coalition has a strong Internet presence, and I encourage Knowles to continue his reading on there.
As for Johelen Courliss’ letter, I find that she is factually inaccurate by falling into the common trap of seeing Silent Sam solely through the “Confederate Soldiers” lens without acknowledging the larger context in which the statue was erected.
She shares touching narratives about the young men who joined the Confederacy and states that “Silent Sam is a monument dedicated to the 287 students who lost their lives in the Civil War and to all those students who fought for the Confederate Army.”
However, there is no mention of Julian Carr’s 1913 dedication speech in which he recalled how he “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.”
During that speech, he praised Confederate soldiers not only as men who sacrificed their lives for their homeland, but specifically for being the reason why “the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon (was) to be found in the 13 Southern States.”
His full speech is available online through the library. By using the “Confederate Soldiers” lens to interpret Silent Sam, one misses the possibility that the statue was erected in order to use the memory of the Confederate soldiers as a vehicle through which to promote white supremacy.
RSSC did a reenactment of this dedication ceremony last semester in order to highlight this aspect of the statue’s history, which is often forgotten.
I support the goals of the Real Silent Sam Coalition and other student groups in further illuminating the discussion about our campus landscape because they are clearly dedicated to expanding the scope of history, not restricting it.
It is not a contradiction to honor the lives of those lost in war while also recognizing that our methods of remembrance have oftentimes been used to promote hateful ideologies as well.