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University announces plans to install a permanent memorial for James Cates

Rally in the Pit 10/25

DTH File. Students mourn around a memorial for James Cates in 2018 at the site where he was killed in 1970.

Content warning: This article contains mention of racially-motivated violence.




The University will install a permanent memorial in The Pit dedicated to James Cates, according to a campus-wide email sent Friday.

Cates — a 22-year-old Black man — was stabbed to death by members of a white supremacist biker gang on the night of Nov. 21, 1970 near the Student Union.The biker gang, known as the Storm Troopers, were found not guilty during the 1971 murder trial. 

This memorial announcement comes after years of community initiatives and activism to honor Cates and bring attention to racially-motivated violence.

“The (Board of Trustees) was committed to listening to members of our Carolina community, including alumni, faculty and students, during this process," BOT Chairperson David Boliek said in a statement. "This memorial honors James Cates and what his life meant to the University and Chapel Hill, and hopefully this will help bring our campus and community together.”

In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation to look further into the circumstances of Cates' murder. Cates' case is one of the latest cases opened through the Cold Case Initiative under the Emmett Till Act. The Cold Case Initiative is an effort to investigate decades-old racially-motivated murders.

The James Cates Remembrance Coalition — a group composed of Cates’ family, community leaders, scholars, activists and students — also proposed renaming the Student Stores building in June 2021. 

"Having the Student Stores building named for James Cates would keep his legacy alive and help move the University away from an era of denial of the persistence of white supremacy and into a future of necessary acknowledgment and reckoning, which can lead to reconciliation," the proposal said.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz passed the proposal to the BOT in fall 2021. 

The Cates memorial will be part of ‘Build our Community Together,' one of the eight initiatives of the 'Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good' plan to increase diversity and inclusion, according to the email.

Guskiewicz said that the initiatives are part of ongoing efforts to promote inclusivity on campus. The University recently renamed two campus building with white supremacist ties.

"The Cates Memorial builds on other key milestones from the past year, including renaming buildings for Hortense McClinton, our first Black professor, and Henry Owl, our first American Indian student," the email said. 

The University said it will share more details of the memorial as it becomes available. 

@livvreilly | 

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