TO THE EDITOR:
As co-chairs of the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History, we agree with Angum Check’s Sept. 6 column: the unsung founders deserve better, both the memorial and the people whose history our university must tell more fully.
The Unsung Founders Memorial was a gift from the Class of 2002. The seniors who contributed to the project aimed to remind us that long before people of color were allowed to study or teach here, they contributed their labor and service to the campus. The few who were free were paid for their work, while countless others toiled anonymously and as unwilling participants in an inhumane system of enslavement.
The memorial was installed in McCorkle Place in 2005. Its placement among America’s first university buildings called us to reckon with a painful chapter from our past and acknowledge the founders who have been excluded from the annals of our history. In the same year, Wilson Library opened an exhibit on Slavery and the Making of the University (still online at https://goo.gl/FVB3Pm). Two years later, Carolina named a new residence hall for slave poet George Moses Horton.
In these ways, Carolina was one of the first American universities to confront the place of slavery in its history. What we know ten years later is that we still have much work to do. That is why the history task force has begun a project to enhance the landscaping around the Unsung Founders Memorial in ways that will make the space more contemplative and reverential. We have hired a landscape architect who has extensive experience with public memorials, and in the coming months we will share design concepts with the campus community.