With the current conversation around Silent Sam and its removal, I thought I’d write about the monument that stands in juxtaposition to Sam — the Unsung Founders Memorial.
A few weeks ago as I was walking through the upper quad, I saw a woman and her two kids having lunch on the monument. I immediately got angry but calmed myself as I approached her. I asked her if she knew what she was sitting on and she stated she did, and was reading the dedication imprinted on the “table,” but was only trying to have lunch with her kids. Her intent was never to harm or offend anybody but simply to have a nice place to sit.
But intent is not effect. The woman eventually moved after her son told her they could go sit at the bench in front of Alumni Hall instead, as if that option wasn’t available as soon as she realized what she was sitting on.
I share this short story because the infuriating and degrading sight of people sitting on the Unsung Founders Memorial was one commonly experienced by other Black students until it was adorned with banquets of flowers.
The Unsung Founders Memorial stands in the shadow just feet behind Silent Sam. Time and time again this monument has been disrespected as a casual picnic table or reading desk. While I’ve spent some energy being angry at the individuals that choose to disrespect the monument, it’s hard to ignore the design of the monument itself as disrespectful. Monuments are meant to commemorate and uplift people or a point in history, yet the Unsung Founders Memorial was built to uplift people’s lunch and body weight?