Chapel Hill removes monuments honoring Confederacy, black history

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- UNC senior Annie Simpson found out Friday morning her artwork was gone.

"We woke up this morning and the markers were gone," Simpson said.

She's one of the student artists who designed the two black history plaques placed without permissions on and near the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

The James Cates memorial, outside the student union, was removed by university officials a day after it was installed, but the other unauthorized memorial on Franklin Street, which honored the black woman referred to as "negro wench" by UNC donor Julian Carr at the Silent Sam dedication, was removed Friday morning by the Town of Chapel Hill.

The town later clarified it removed the pedestal the student plaque rested on. Apparently, thieves got to the plaque first.

A picture of the plaque surfaced on the "Confederate 901" Facebook page. It was broken, and on top of a Confederate flag with the caption, "Operation 'Getter Done' was successful..Plaque is on Confederate Hands once again (smiley emoji)'"

"(I felt) incredible disgust at how cruel that imagery is," Simpson said. "This plaque that we created to honor black history on top of a Confederate flag."

On the "Confederate 901" Facebook page, an unidentified man posted a live video where he did not mention he took the black history plaque but implied he knew where it was.

Simpson responded, "You can steal that plaque but that's not gonna stop us from making art and continuing to contextualize this landscape."

It was Friday morning when Town of Chapel Hill officials announced they had removed the black history pedestal and the Jefferson Davis Highway marker that was placed there to honor the one-time president of the Confederate states.

"The presence of both markers has resulted in an ongoing threat to public safety.," said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. "Both markers have been removed and will be offered to their rightful owners."

The United Daughters of the Confederacy, who've long insisted that Confederate monuments like Silent Sam and the Jefferson Davis marker celebrate the heritage of the south not the hate and oppression of slavery, told ABC11 that the Orange County town was breaking the law.

"We're concerned and upset," said UDC N.C. President Sara N. Powell. "Using the excuse of public safety concerns is a blatant lie. You can remove all the memorials and markers you want, but you cannot change history."

Monuments or no monuments, Confederate tensions continue to simmer in Chapel Hill.

The pro-Confederate group "Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County" is planning a rally in downtown Chapel Hill Saturday. Counter-protests are expected as well.
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