The design of the monument invites disrespect through its accessibility and inherent purpose of serving the public. When people use it as a place to sit and eat, it is almost as though the founders are once more doing a service to the community’s more privileged members. It was misused to the point that activists had to place bouquets of flowers on the memorial to prevent people from utilizing it as a lunch table.
In contrast, Silent Sam was placed on a pedestal, standing tall for all to admire. The symbolism is unmistakable.
The Unsung Founders Memorial, while well-intentioned, does not do enough to pay tribute to the marginalized people who played an invaluable role in the founding of our University. A single monument does not justify the years of systemic racism and idleness toward a statue representing white supremacy. The Unsung Founders Memorial needs an improved platform, complemented by substantial changes on campus, both physically and ideologically, to truly champion the Black people who were the foundation of this University.
Because how much does a memorial really mean if it is constantly misused and misinterpreted by the public?
Although the artist’s original intent was for the memorial to represent a place of unity, the intent is buried in the lack of contextualization surrounding the monument’s history. Few understand what the memorial truly represents, and aside from the inscription, little information is given. Many people treat it as little more than a place of leisure, never fully recognizing its significance.
The University’s failure to give the Unsung Founders the recognition they deserve is a symptom of a greater issue. Because as much as it claims to value diversity, the University still has yet to truly give a platform to marginalized communities — not even when it comes to those responsible for its creation. The University can include the proper contextualization, or truly live up to the message of the memorial by providing support to students and faculty of color on campus.
The Editorial Board encourages students, on their next stroll through the Upper Quad, to pause at the memorial and reflect, even if it's just for a few moments. Without the obstruction of Silent Sam, take in the beauty of the upper quad, from Davie Poplar's towering branches to Graham Memorial Hall's regal columns. None of this would exist without the labor of the slaves and freed people of color, who we will forever be indebted to and whom the University has failed spectacularly, especially in recent years, of honoring.
Our founders deserve better. Their praises deserve to be sung. Not quietly, not in a way that can be mistaken or ignored, but loud enough for everyone to hear.