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The Daily Tar Heel

Letters to the Editor: Silent Sam protests

Editor's note: During the weeks The Daily Tar Heel did not publish while transitioning to the summer paper, we received many letters. Though we cannot publish all of them, we appreciate your submissions and we thank you for your readership and engagement.

Dear Editor:

During Student Body President Ford Runge's administration at UNC in the 1970s, I became the first black Student Body Secretary. My godparents were faculty members Blyden and Roberta Jackson. They and my parents encouraged me to be involved in campus activities. I write today, nearly 45 years later, to encourage current students to be involved in a campus matter. Write to your state legislators to express your concern that a statue is miring the reputation of our great institution of higher learning. When I was a student, the disparaging saying was: "When a virgin walks by, Silent Sam will fire his weapon." In this current era of "Me Too," ask the North Carolina General Assembly to remove the statue now. They cannot be silent too when the statue has been so offensive so long in so many ways to so many.

Evelyn Dove-Coleman

UNC Class of '75, '78 (J.D.)

Dear Editor--

The interview with Ms. Maya Little justifying her vandalism of Silent Sam deserves a response. I don't dispute her right to express in even hyperbolic terms her disgust at the treatment of her ancestors by our country since the time of its inception. Slavery was and will always be indefensible. That said, the Silent Sam monument was erected in remembrance of the more than 200 male students who lost their lives in a war that many in the Confederate Army believed was unwinnable for the South. Since only a small percentage of white Southerners owned slaves, the Confederate army was largely composed of persons who had no economic interest in the preservation of slavery. They only had blind loyalty to their states. The war was a monumental tragedy that should have been avoided. Is it not proper for us to remember those students? 

Sam is a standing reminder of the folly of wars fought for the wrong reason. Some of the language on the statue's bronze tablets should be changed to remind us in simple terms of the UNC soldiers who died young for a lost cause. As a student of history, Ms. Little should understand that history must be told and not buried in some Orwellian purgation. 

Her loathing and vandalism of this statue are, in my judgment, excessive and counterproductive.

I wish her luck in court.

John E Greenbacker Jr
UNC Class of '67 Political Science

To the Editor:

On Monday, Maya Little went to the Orange County courthouse, following in the footsteps of Chapel Hills' civil rights activists who were tried there in the early 1960’s. At the time, protesters held sit-ins to demand integration of town businesses. These actions resulted in hundreds of arrests. 

Most people believe that civil disobedience is a necessary and legitimate method for acting against injustice. But in the case of Little’s action at Silent Sam, many are saying she went too far. Beyond the detractors who object to the deed outright, there are those who agree with her mission, but not her methods. Others debate whether she committed civil disobedience at all, since she purposefully defaced the statue.

To make sense of all these opinions, I urge everyone to consider Chapel Hill’s first wave of civil disobedience. Although there were citizens sympathetic to the cause, their support was not always unconditional. Often, they agreed with the mission, but not the methods. As a result, the outrage over breaking a trespassing law at a sit-in nearly drowned out the outrage over an unjust system that denied people of color their civil liberties. 

This community still faces some of the same challenges in supporting activism. With so few people willing to take a public stand, those on the front lines risk much and face overwhelming odds – all at an enormous personal cost. Nonetheless, one student chose to take a stand in her own way. For that, Little is to be commended, not criticized. 

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Nan Fulcher

UNC Class of 2004, Microbiology and Immunology (Ph.D)